March 20, 2002
Several events have occurred in the last couple of days regarding the proposed 290,000 square foot development on the SE Corner of 159th and Metcalf. Much of this information comes from Johnson County Zoning Administrator Paul Greeley, who responded to an email I sent on behalf of nearby neighborhoods and the Johnson County South Coalition to him and Roger Kroh, Director Of Planning.
Paul called and provided an update on the application, the Corps of Engineers, and the pond the developer has drained. Many thanks to the Planning Department for providing such great service to Johnson County residents.
Two Meetings Set
The application for developing the SE Corner of 159th & Metcalf was submitted to the Johnson County Planning Department on March 19. The developer wishes to re-zone it from its planned residential use to intensive commercial use, PRB-3. The Oxford Township Zoning Board is scheduled to consider the proposal on Thursday evening, April 18. All residents who are concerned about this development should attend this meeting. However, meetings often get re-scheduled, so be sure to call just before you go.
In addition, Gayle Schloemer, President of Blue Valley Riding along with Jack Epps, the attorney for the developer, and David Hill of the Blue Valley School District, held a conference call today and reserved room at the Blue Valley Middle School for 7 pm April 11. This meeting is only tentative at this point. It replaces the hastily scheduled meeting the developer had proposed and that neighborhoods boycotted. The Presidents of 7 neighborhood associations had written the developer demanding the meeting be rescheduled.
By the way, that boycott was completely successful. The only attendees other than the developers were 4 members of the Johnson County South Coalition. They came from the Morse area, Blue Valley Riding, and Creekside. The four had agreed prior to the meeting to go to take notes, digital photos, and video to share with neighbors in preparation for the next meeting.
This is the second time the JCSC has worked with neighborhoods to successfully boycott one of these hastily called developer meetings. Last time the JCSC learned that developers don't pass out their information. One hopes that developers will come to realize that this tactic of shocking a neighborhood with little notice is becoming counter-productive even for them. Standing in front of governing bodies and claiming that this sort of short notice meeting with no handouts represents a good faith effort to involve communities is a sham that needs to be put to rest.
Corps of Engineers Has Jurisdiction Over Stream
The Corps of Engineers met with Epps and his engineers, Phelps Engineering, at the property. The Corps, represented by Josh Marx, looked over the 1200 foot stream and informed the developers that the Corps had jurisdiction - a permit will be required. The type of permit, which is significant, is not known. Based on what JCSC members have learned through dealing with water issues on several developments, the developer must submit an application along with a study. The Corps will determine whether a national (easy to get) or individual (hard to get) permit is required. The level of interest shown by the community is a factor in whether public hearings will be held.
The Corps' primary interest appears to be the wetlands and streams on a property and whether dredging of these will harm waterways downstream. Anyone is welcome to write or email the Corps of Engineers, presumably Josh Marx, that they would like public hearings. The Corps has a Directory web page showing contact information and an application web page showing current applications.
The Corps does not have jurisdiction over the pond. The State does not regulate ponds under 30 acre feet. This pond is less than 1/2 acre and certainly not 60 feet deep, so is less than 30 acre feet.
According to Paul Greeley, County Zoning Administrator, the County gains jurisdiction over the property, including the pond, as soon as the applicant submits a plan. He refered to the Zoning and Subdivision Regulations for Johnson County, Article 4, Section 2, A6:
"6. Whenever an application for a Rezoning, Conditional Use Permit, Development Plan, or Subdivision Plat is pending, the subject real property shall not be cleared of trees or ground cover vegetation or graded without prior written approval by the Zoning Administrator."
On March 8, less than two weeks before the developer submitted the plan, a neighbor reported to Johnson County that the creek flowing through her yard was flooding, in spite of the fact there was a drought. The detritus from the flooding still remains. Subsequent investigation by neighbors discovered a new channel had been dug to drain the pond. The developer appears to have been smart enough to do his dirty little deed before submitting his application and becoming subject to the County regulation.
The result is that the downstream neighborhood, Blue Valley Riding, no longer has the protection of a catch pond and may be immediately inundated by the water runoff from the acreage that drained into the pond. The neighborhood feels that the County should require the new ditch and any grading changes to be restored until decisions about the this property can be made.
The attorney for the developer, Jack Epps, claims to know nothing about the draining of the pond. Perhaps the owner of the property, the Catholic Education Foundation, who has it under contract for sale to Epps' development group, decided after all these decades that it was just time to drain the pond and did it on their own without telling Epps. Or perhaps the Engineering firm hired by the developers just decided on their own to go out onto this property and drain the pond 10 days before the application was submitted. Who knows? Maybe this is standard operating procedure not to inform the legal counsel of significant alterations being made to the property at a time the application is being prepared. Actually, destroying water features before they become a nuisance and not telling legal counsel just might be standard operating procedure in Johnson County. I believe the last time a developer destroyed a stream illegally, the attorney also claimed to have no knowledge.
However, there is still the question of whether that pond was constructed with state or federal funds. If that were the case, then it might very well be illegal to have altered it without permission.