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