Comp plan’s eastside land uses draw Council members’ criticism
Although there seemed to be a reluctance to mention its name, the proposed Arbor Ridge subdivision cast its shadow over the De Soto City Council's first discussion of an update to the city's comprehensive plan.
Last Thursday, Planning Commission member Roger Templn briefed the De Soto City Council on the update he and fellow planning commissioners approved two days earlier.
The 130-page update is the product of an 18-month effort involving numerable public meetings. The last seven months of that effort coincided with Lambie-Geer's plans to develop a 90-acre tract southeast of the 83rd Street/Kill Creek Avenue intersection, a juxtaposition that greatly increased interest in the update.
Templin told the Council the update had "holes." The biggest issue left unresolved was future land-uses for the city east of Kill Creek.
The issue proved too difficult for the Planning Commission to "wrestle to the ground," Templin said. As a result, the update the City Council received suggested the area be placed in a transitional overlay district designated for further study. The swath of incorporated and unincorporated land south of K-10 and east of Lexington Avenue would also be in the overlay district.
Until consensus was reached, the update presented to the Council recommended the current low- to moderate-density residential land be contained to the rectangle formed by Kill Creek, 83rd Street, Waverly Road and Kansas Highway 10. Low- to moderate-density designation is compatible with residential zoning classifications allowing one to four units per acre. Low density has one or fewer homes per acre.
It didn't take long for the controversy sparked by the ArborRidge proposal to surface at last Thursday's meeting.
Councilman Emil Urbanek alleged the update's land-use proposals overrode existing zoning. Councilman Tim Maniez joined him in arguing that retaining the Kill Creek-to-Waverly corridor as low- to moderate-density in the Kill Creek corridor would transform the area.
"If we adopt this thing, we'll never see another large-lot development north of K-10," Urbanek said.
The zoning was not usurped by the update, Templin and planning consultant Sean Ackerson said. All property was brought into the city as agricultural and much of the land east of Kill Creek has never been rezoned.
The land uses proposed for east De Soto were the same or more restrictive than those in the current plan, the two men said. Areas along Waverly Road dominated by large-lot development were chanced from low- to moderate-density to low-density in the update, Templin said.
Furthermore, the eastern-most section of the city in the Cedar Creek watershed was designated as a rural policy area that requires residential lots be at least five acres, Templin noted.
Although he didn't advocate any land-use designations, Templin said the Planning Commission considered conflicting interests in the update process. The Kill Creek Road corridor offered a logical growth area that would not require the expensive extension of sewer, water and roads that would come with "leap-frog" development in areas further from the city core, Templin and Ackerson said.
Restricting development in the Kill Creek corridor to large-lots would prevent the extension of sewers to the Kill Creek/K-10 intersection, Templin said. That would eliminate one of the city's most attractive sites for future commercial development, he said. The same considerations applied to the 95th Street/K-10 intersection, he said.
"Are we as a city willing to say we are giving up on that area and the 95th Street interchange to commercial developers?" Templin asked.
When Urbanek remained unappeased and attacked the update as "poorly written," Councilwoman Mitra Templin acknowledged the "thing" providing the context to much of the discussion was Arbor Ridge. She reminded the Council the update was much more than land uses along the Kill Creek Road corridor. The transitional overlay district and the Council's decision to name a committee to study the area provided a means to deal with that issue, she said.
It was suggested the Council could place a moratorium on development in the corridor until the committee's work was finished.
Among the new proposals in the update were:
¢ Creation of a view-shed overlay district along K-10 that would attempt to preserve the highway's scenic vistas.
¢ The encouragement of cluster development, particularly in the urban service area. The concept would preserve green space by allowing developers to build more closely packed housing on a site's more accessible and construction-friendly areas in return for guarantees those areas with attractive natural features such as timber, creeks, slops and valleys are left undeveloped.
The plan would accommodate the current wishes of property owners on De Soto's fringe while preserving more of its future development potential than traditional 10-acre lot development.
¢ A downtown overlay district that would set standards for attractive development that doesn't cause traffic, noise or visual problems. Among other suggestions, it is proposed pedestrian paths and streets to downtown be improved and the tree canopy preserved.
It is suggested existing homes could be improved through stricter code enforcement and city programs that provide paint and other home-improvement materials to low-income property owners.
¢ New mixed use and business park land-use classifications that replace much of the commercial and mixed in place of commercial and industrial zoning in the current plan. Ackerson told the Planning Commission in October that the change better reflected current patterns that had offices, apartments, light industrial and commercial properties in planned developments.
Other chapters in the update examine De Soto's demographics, public facilities, street system, parks and economic outlook. In all, it was an impressive effort compared to the city's first comprehensive plan, Mayor Dave Anderson said. The land-use map in that document was put together by him and other planning commissioners around a table at the Kill Creek Pub in one evening, he said.
But Urbanek said it was unreasonable to expect Council members to digest the material that was delivered the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and criticized those involved in the effort for finishing so close to the end-of-the-year deadline. The Council must approve an update at that time or lose a $17,000 state grant that is paying for the process.
The Council will discuss the update again at its Dec. 18 meeting when it will again be linked to Arbor Ridge. The Council is to consider two rezoning requests for that subdivision that same night.