Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Boundary puts city, county at odds

Development moratorium around County Road 1 draws line at city limits

June 6, 2007

The Leavenworth County Commission maintains that a moratorium on development for a prime area of real estate south of Tonganoxie would be best suited running all the way to Tonganoxie city limits.

There was some disagreement among the commissioners whether a resolution approved on May 21 placed the northern boundary of the moratorium one-half mile north of Honey Creek Road or one-half mile north of Kansas Avenue. The moratorium prohibits all building permits, rezonings, and special use permits for six months along County Road 1 leading to the planned interchange with Interstate 70.

As it stands after a 2-1 vote Thursday, though, the area spans 1 1/2 miles east and west of County Road 1, one-half mile south of Kansas Highway 32 and one-half mile north of Kansas Avenue.

"As I look at everything, I think it's in our best interest to leave it as written," Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said Thursday. "If not, we have a half mile of unprotected space, where (a developer) could come in and mess things up."

The moratorium, which Tonganoxie officials said last week "landlocked" the city, apparently will have no bearing on the city's ability to annex property southward.

"We cannot block annexation," County Counselor David Van Parys said. "The real issue is to have a beneficial, coordinated land-use plan for the area to be used even after Tongie makes annexations."

State law allows cities to annex land by ordinance, provided that the land is platted and some part of the land adjoins the city. Any 'island annexations' or annexations to land not adjacent to city limits must receive approval from the county commission.

In a meeting Tuesday, county commissioners discussed the County Road 1 situation again with David Waters, a land use attorney with Lathrop and Gage in Overland Park.

During that meeting, Van Parys warned that annexation by the city of Tonganoxie "could possibly trump the land use policy we have in place" for County Road 1

Waters added such a scenario was possible only if the proper economic overlays were not in place before annexation begins.

"Tonganoxie's going to have to be involved in some way," Waters said. "When a grand plan is in place, we need Tonganoxie on board. It will be a turnkey effort of sorts."

"To gain the greatest benefit, we do need to cooperate with the city of Tonganoxie," Van Parys echoed.

Commissioner Clyde Graeber said he was ready to hear a motion changing the northern boundary of the moratorium area to Honey Creek Road -- one-half mile away from Tonganoxie city limits -- if the moratorium had "no effect" on annexation, but Van Parys and Oroke said they would like to defer the motion until talking with Tonganoxie officials about the matter.

Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez was forthright about the city's intentions last week with the commission.

"Do we have an interest in annexing along County Road 1?" Yanez asked. "Of course we do. We think Tonganoxie's growth interest is going to be toward the turnpike interchange.

"I just think there's been a lack of communication. For us it's important that the 4,000 citizens of Tonganoxie feel like they have a say in this process."

Yanez said that, in the past, Tonganoxie officials had always been notified of any growth within three miles of the city limits.

For Leavenworth County Planning and Zoning Director Chris Dunn, stretching the moratorium area to Tonganoxie city limits was not "a hostile act."

"We went with a logical boundary based on two major intersections," he said. "This never precluded the city of Tonganoxie from developing southward."

Graeber, who, along with Tellefson, voted last week to keep the boundary as stated, said he would have liked more control over the area and that he had been led to believe that annexation would, in fact, be prevented.

"I want to be sure that we (the county) have not been divested of our ability to recoup our investment," Graeber said.

County commissioners committed at least $8 million of the $12.96 in estimated costs for improvements to County Road 1, with the Kansas Turnpike Authority shelling out $2 million more. It has yet to be determined whether a commitment of $1 million from the city of Tonganoxie will be forthcoming.

Tellefson said his goal was the same as Graeber's -- to recover as much money as possible -- but he added that certain benefits and liabilities come with any annexation.

"If someone were to annex property (along County Road 1), they'd be assuming the liabilities along with the benefits," Tellefson said.

It stands to be seen whether the county or the city of Tonganoxie will develop and manage water, sewage and other utilities along County Road 1 and which entity will provide police and fire protection and sanitation service for the area. It is also uncertain which entity will reap the majority of the financial benefits.

Van Parys noted that "certain franchise fees might be affected" were annexation to occur but added that economic overlays -- including the use of a development district like that discussed at a meeting held April 23 with legal consultants from Lathrop and Gage -- could funnel benefits back to the county.

"We need to engage in discussion with Tonganoxie," he said. "Because there's a mutual benefit here."

"I want to work with Tonganoxie on this," Commissioner Dean Oroke said. "My only intent is to protect the city and the county in this endeavor."

According to Yanez, annexations by Tonganoxie would benefit future property owners and would "maximize a developer's investment."

"Also," he said, "The city has a planning and zoning policy in place, whereas the county has yet to develop it. At least, with Tongie, the rulebook's already been written."

For Tellefson, a time when "this whole area is part of Tonganoxie" might not be far off. He said that he just wants to work together now to be able to provide the maximum benefit for the county and the city in the future.

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