Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2006

City officials brainstorm about Tonganoxie’s futures

February 8, 2006

When updating Tonganoxie's comprehensive plan, city council and planning commission members agree -- as the city grows, it needs to be fiscally responsible, it should preserve downtown and maintain "green space" in subdivisions. And Tonganoxie should work toward becoming a full-service community.

These ideas were a few priorities floating through council chambers Thursday in a joint meeting of the city council and planning commission.

Scott Michie and Kevin Kokes of the city's planning firm, Bucher, Willis and Ratliff, led the brainstorming meeting. It started with officials breaking into groups of two and three to discuss the city's present and future challenges.

All city council members and four planning commissioners -- Diane Bretthauer, Jim Bothwell, Burl Gratny and Don Pelzl -- attended the meeting, as did Dan Lynch of Lynch Real Estate, chamber of commerce board member Cheryl Hanback and Meadows Construction owner Mike Reischman.

Planning commission members Michael Weston, Joel Skelley and Larry Smith were absent.

Council member Ron Cranor and Bretthauer said fiscal responsibility was important, especially with plans being developed for County Road 1 to serve a connecting route to a turnpike interchange south of Tonganoxie.

Cranor said it was important for council members to "not overextend ourselves" when it comes to the connecting route and subsequent acreage -- roughly 2,000 acres known as Tailgate Ranch that owners Paul McKie and his wife, Elizabeth, voluntarily want to annex into the city. Tailgate Ranch is on the east side of County Road 1.

The council recently pledged up to $2.8 million to help finance County Road 1 improvements, but Cranor voted against the measure.

Later in the meeting, officials ranked issues facing the city. Fiscal responsibility when making infrastructure decisions -- and making Tonganoxie a full-service community -- were the top two priorities. Full service means residents could take care of most daily shopping and service needs in Tonganoxie.

"Growth is almost a fear for some people because they think we'll lose that sense of community," council member Velda Roberts said.

Lynch agreed with Roberts.

"One of the reasons people come to Tonganoxie, I believe, is it's more of a complete community, good commercial base," Lynch said. "What we have is not bad, we just want to be perfect."

In Lynch's mind, the community needs more high-end housing, in the $200,000 to $250,000 range, to complement the existing housing stock.

But Gratny, who previously was on the planning commission in Basehor, said he moved from Basehor because so many high-end houses were being built.

"I came here because I found a house that met my needs," Gratny said.

Council and planning commission members also said it's important to build more parks as the community grows.

As for the downtown district, Roberts said it must be "preserved" as development continues elsewhere in the city.

Pelzl, whose variety store is downtown, said that would be a tough sell.

"I think you're opportunistic," he said. "There will be very little downtown. It's going away now."

The next joint meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. March 2 in council chambers as the city looks to revise its comprehensive plan.

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