Overlay district to become a reality
Despite reservations from some members, the DeSoto City Council decided earlier this month to enter into an agreement with the Johnson County Board of Commissioners to form an overlay district.
After DeSoto annexed a portion of county land along the K-10 corridor in 1998, the city and county agreed to establish a joint zoning review board to make decisions on new development within the annexed portion of the corridor and portions of the corridor still within Johnson County.
The goal of the joint board was to eventually form an overlay district. The final step in that direction was the council's approval of an intra-local agreement, giving the city and the county equal say in what can and cannot be built along certain portions of the corridor.
The agreement was approved March 30 by the Johnson County Board of Commissioners. County Commissioner Johnna Lingle attended DeSoto's city council meeting that same night only to see the issue tabled by the DeSoto council. Council members weren't satisfied with the arbitration section of the agreement,
Overlay district regulations stipulate any disagreement between the city and the county would be decided by an independent arbitrator. Council member Tim Maniez told Lingle he wanted the two governing bodies to handle any disputes themselves, with final say going to DeSoto officials if the land in question is on the city side and to the county commissioners if the land is on the county side. Council members decided to table the issue for two weeks, partly because council member Brad Seaman was absent from the meeting.
Seaman was at the April 6 meeting, and had a strong opinion on the matter.
"It looks to me like the county wants to be big daddy here so DeSoto doesn't do something to embarrass them because we don't know what we're doing," he said.
DeSoto Planning Commissioner Dave Anderson said he understood Seanman's concern, but added that as they learned about the agreement city officials would see the benefit.
"My reaction when it came to us was virtually the same. We're extending ourselves here. They're coming into our yard and we're going into their yard," he said. "But that's something we can benefit from. This theory of 'here's the city line and here's the county line' has got to go. This is not a matter of them shoving it down our throat. We're working together here."
Anderson said there was little likelihood an arbitrator would ever be needed. The city and the county have similar visions and regulations and would work together to enforce them, he said.
"I cannot think of a single item that would get to that point unless it was political in nature," he said. "If it were of a political nature, two commissioners and two council members would be appointed to work it out. If they can't, then a mediator is brought in. The chances of that happening are almost zero, but it has to be there."
"Seaman was more upset with the way the county has handled the matter than he was with the details of the deal, he said.
"I think the way it all came about was distasteful. It's like they said to us, 'If you want the annexation, this is what you have to do.' That repulses me," he said. "It tells me you guys don't think we can make a competent decision here."
Maniez wanted to know why the arbitrator was included at all.
"If it's such a minute shot, if it's so insignificant, then why can't the city of DeSoto have final say in DeSoto and the commission have final say in the county?" he asked. "It seems like there's a small line you draw and say this is our city. If there's such a minute chance, why can't we negotiate that in there?"
The council approved the overlay district 4-1 with Maniez casting the only no vote.