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Commissioners Say No
to 159th/Metcalf Retail Center Proposal

November 7, 2002

Johnson County Commissioners voted today to deny the proposed Blue Valley Plaza Commercial retail shopping center with 24 town homes proposed for the southeast corner of 159th and Metcalf.

Dramatic Votes Lead To Denial

In a somewhat complicated final vote, Commissioners Surbaugh and Wolf voted "no" to the approval of the project, while Commissioners Wood, Anderson, and Gross voted "yes." It usually takes 3 out of 5 votes to approve a project but with a valid protest petition on file against this project, today's vote required 4 out of 5 votes for approval.

In dramatic proceedings before the final vote, an earlier motion to deny the project failed. This vote for the first time showed that the development would not have the 4 votes needed to pass. It left the project's supporters in disarray because they now wanted to avoid a decisive vote. A decisive vote would stop the project for a year.

The developer's planner rushed to the podium and was ruled out of order. A motion to continue the hearing until December 16 failed to get a second. The developer's attorney approached the podium. He was ruled out of order. A suggestion for a motion to withdraw the project on behalf of the developer failed to go forward. Finally, since none of the Commissioners who supported the project would move to approve it, Commissioner Surbaugh moved to do so. Commissioner Wood accused her of simply using a tactic. Commissioner Wolf then seconded the motion. When the vote was taken, they voted against the motion, while the others voted for it.

Today's vote means that this proposal is dead. Developers must wait for one year if they plan to resubmit the same plan or one substantially similar. However, a modified plan could be reintroduced without the year restriction and would go through the hearing process all over again.

The highly contentious Blue Valley Plaza proposal has been in the planning process for over 7 months. Citizens protested the heavy PRB-3 intense commercial zoning designation sought by the developer when the master plan called for residential.

Road Funding: In Last Week, Out This Week

Several new issues arose in today's hearings. It was apparent from a letter submitted by Attorney Charles Benjamin, Attorney for Residents for Sensible Development, Inc., that the "transportation district" earlier proposed by the developer was in trouble. A Kansas law passed this summer allowed creation of "transportation districts" supported by sales taxes or special assessments for creation of roadways and road infrastructure. However, the Kansas Attorney General's office had been requested to examine the legality of the new law. The letter from Benjamin indicated that Commissioner Anderson, acting as an attorney for the City Of Manhatten, had requested the Attorney General's ruling. This information had never before been introduced during these hearings.

Huge concerns about the 11,170 vehicle traffic created by Blue Valley Plaza had prompted the developer last week to offer this same type of transportation district as a way to mitigate traffic problems. In the end, there were too many unanswered questions about this issue.

Odd New Agreements Offered

The developer also presented new legal documents at today's hearing: "development agreements and covenants of landowner" which, in effect, were the developer's assurances through deed restrictions that he would follow stipulations and agreements as outlined. Citizens had raised concerns about annexation to Overland Park and how agreements with the county might disappear in Overland Park.

In the end, these also proved too overwhelming. Commissoner Surbaugh stated that any zoning that had to go forward with so many assurances and agreements put into place was the wrong zoning for the spot.

Blue Valley Riding Association President, Gayle Schloemer, waved these just seen agreements in the air during her speech and stated, "Mr. Epps didn't even have the courtesy to hand me a copy of these at the start of the meeting." Mr. Epps had indicated that one of the agreements was to be with Blue Valley Riding. A number of citizens spoke at the hearing on a range of issues from traffic to master plan integrity.

During the final vote, Commissioners Wood, Gross and Anderson explained their vote by saying they felt the project would work. Commissioner Surbaugh indicated it was the wrong project for the zoning and too many assurances and deed agreements were a sign of problems. Commissioner Wolf stated that she supported the staff and bodies who had examined this project. Both Johnson County Planning and Oxford Township Zoning Board had denied this project twice.

Concerned citizens are pleased with today's decision. However, they recognize that until this 31 acre corner is developed this issue will require their attention and involvement.

Submitted by
Shirley Phillips

See NeighborhoodNet topic SE 159th/Metcalf for more information on this project.

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