June 21, 2002
On Thursday night at 7 pm the Oxford Township Zoning Board in Johnson County, Kansas, considered a development proposal at 159th and Metcalf, SE corner. The Board recommended denial of the application by a 3 to 0 vote.
Now it goes to the Johnson County Commissioners on July 25, who can do pretty much whatever they want - accept, deny, or delay. That meeting is during the morning at 9:30 on a weekday, but interested neighbors should try their best to attend. The meeting will not be a public forum, but interested parties who have additional information to contribute will be given an opportunity to do so, according to Roger Kroh, Director of Planning.
Odd Presentation By Developers
The presentation by the developers, represented primarily by Jack Epps and Andy Schlaegel, was strange:
1. The introduction almost accused the Zoning Board and the Planning Department of being under the influence of the public, but the developer hoped the Board would be able to be fair, even though the developer heard that he would be wasting his time talking to the Board.
2. The developer accused the neighbors of "demonizing" him.
3. The developer spent several minutes of his limited 30 minutes of time talking about his relatives being pastors, of how theologians would never misinterpret planning rules the way neighbors would by just pulling out certain phrases in support of their views while ignoring other phrases that were not supportive.
4. The developer then pulled out certain phrases in support of his views while ignoring other phrases that were not supportive - this was all about how "transition residential" was NOT meant to mean residential: that the Planning Department and neighbors had misinterpreted what transition meant in the Master Plan.
Definition of Transition Residential Clarified For Developer
Roger Kroh, Director Of Planning, gets the award for the pithiest response of the evening to these accusations that his department did not understand the meaning of transition. He said something like:
"The Johnson County and Overland Park planners were not interpreting some plan handed down from Topeka. We were the authors of the Plan. We know what we meant."
Later, Roxanne Morse, who chaired the meeting, also explained to the developer that transitional residential meant residential, referring to documents from both the County and the City of Overland Park.
I really felt like popping up and saying:
"Perhaps this whole application was a simple mistake based on the developer's misinterpretation of the word transitional residential. So now that he knows that residential actually means residential, as opposed to residential meaning commercial, he would want to withdraw this application."
But I refrained.
Several neighbors from Blue Valley Riding, Fox Chase, and Willowbend made good presentations, much of it focused on the way this development would be just the opposite of what the Master Plan called for and completely out of character with neighborhood. The Overland Park and Johnson County Planners had carefully balanced residential and commercial in this area and had decided that 3 of the corners at 159th and Metcalf would have light commercial and be balanced by the 4th corner being residential to meet housing and transition needs. Changing the 4th corner from residential to the most intense retail commercial would completely negate the long, hard planning efforts by eliminating both balance and transition. Instead of transitioning from 1 acre residential to urban density residential, the one acre residential would be directly abutting the PRB-3 with a CUP for 50 foot high buildings.
Developer Promises County Tax Revenue
The developer got 3 minutes at the end of presentations to make his final point. The point he made, which is the crux of his argument and already being used with the County Commissioners, is that this project would generate a lot of tax revenue which could then be used to pay for the school system and other noble endeavors.
Apparently, in his opinion, generation of revenue should outweigh planning considerations. Afterwards, it was suggested by some that under this approach, a casino or a power plant might be more suitable. In fact, as long as one is asking for a PRB-3 based on revenue generation, why not go for any of the following, all of which are acceptable in PRB-3 with a suitable Conditional Use Permit:
- Power Plant
- Pipeline Terminal
- Penal Institution
Board Votes Against Applications
Roxanne Morse, Chair of the Zoning Board, once more drew upon her extensive experience over many years, including involvement with the Master Planning process herself, to make many good points. Chair Morse made the key observation that although there were PRB-2 lots across the street, they were in fact devoted to PRB-1 uses, including a church. Several people had pointed out that the only 2 PRB-3 lots (4.5 acres) across the street from the proposed development had 31 restrictions in order to keep them in character with the neighborhood. Avoidance of undue traffic was explicitly mentioned among these provisions.
The Board then voted 3 - 0 to deny each of the 3 related applications: rezoning, preliminary plan, and Conditional Use Permit.