Stieben: County Road 1 plan right choice for future of southern Leavenworth County
Editor’s note: This is the first contribution from Mike Stieben, the newly elected Leavenworth County Commissioner for the Fifth District.
The first two weeks as your new Fifth District County Commissioner have been a whirlwind of activity.
In fact, I personally cannot remember a two-week period in recent history during which so many decisions, many of them years in the making, have been finally resolved by the county.
The years-long controversy of County Road 1 moved a giant step closer to being resolved Wednesday, April 17, at the commission meeting. The Commission voted to adopt land development Concept A, which allows for the “highest and best use of property” along County Road 1.
The County Road 1 Corridor generally spans 6 miles between south limits of Tonganoxie and Kansas Highway 32. The land-use document prepared for the county envisions and recommends that the road “…become(s) a scenic parkway from Tonganoxie to Golden Road.”
The document recommends rural or low-density residential development around the perimeter of Tonganoxie and south into the CR-1 corridor. The plan recommends a potential growth area/special plan district that requires a minimum of 10 acres for new land development generally from Honey Creek Road to just beyond Cantrell Road. It recommends agriculture preserve uses for the area south of Cantrell Road. The key concept to what was adopted is encouraging commercial and mixed use at key locations.
Leavenworth County government has spent nearly $25 million on the development of the County Road 1 corridor.
Sadly, when the original turnpike exit and road expansion in the area was approved, the county did not have a land-use plan in place and subsequently no plan was adopted until the October 2018 “Land Use Analysis” document was released. One consequence of not having a plan in place was the government paralysis that ensued when the Kansas Department of Commerce proposed the Tyson facility.
Because there was no land-use plan, there was no actual zoning in effect in the area of CR-1. There was not a comprehensive plan for the development of the area. This lack of planning allowed for enormous conflict involving the Tyson issue.
The land-use document that was finally developed left options for the community.
The Leavenworth County Commission had to decide whether to adopt Concept A, which allows for some smaller housing development, including apartments and homes on smaller tracts of land and some other types of mixed uses. Mixed uses include light industrial, such as bicycle shops, barber and beauty shops and other small businesses that would use an estimated 5.64 percent of the land.
Concept A also allows for medium industrial uses for manufacturing, high-tech, health and finance industries to locate in our community using an estimated 3.62 percent of the total development area.
Adopting Concept B would allow very little room for any type of mixed development. In fact, while concept A allows for 5.64 percent industrial concept, Concept B reduces that to 0.94 percent. Concept B envisions virtually no growth or development along CR-1, something that I believe is sustainable for the future of Tonganoxie and the southern Leavenworth County community as a whole.
My statement on this issue has been this all along — I support economic development that creates an environment that attracts small businesses and new industry to the area without changing the culture of southern Leavenworth County.
I believe that Concept A finds that balance.
Each landowner will continue to have the use permitted and zoned for that they currently enjoy.
There will be no acquisition of private property to give to some large corporation to redevelop large tracts of land in the area with little or no say from landowners.
At the same time, Concept A makes it very clear that our community looking for good high-paying and sustainable jobs that can help our children to have a livelihood in the future and help our community grow.
The plan encourages entrepreneurs to open up shops here. It welcomes job creators to come to southern Leavenworth County and feel that they are wanted and needed.
For the most part, all landowners within the CR-1 corridor will see no change in their current land-use status. The movement will come in the future as land transfers are made and as the city of Tonganoxie expands and grows.
Planning commission staff indicated that they do not envision big changes for the 20-40 years into the future.
Our job as community leaders is to lay the groundwork for a positive future for our community and make government user-friendly and cooperative as the process moves forward. The job of government is to make our community literally a land of opportunity for those who want to come here to build the future.
The capstone of all of this is that the county has finally come to a resolution on these issues. The community can move forward with a lifted moratorium on development and a zoned CR-1. Agree or disagree with these decisions, hopefully we can come together as a community to get the good jobs and positive types of development we need.
— To discuss issues or provide input for future columns, contact Mike Stieben at 913-364-5789.