Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Council denies Arbor Ridge rezoning bids

December 24, 2003

The De Soto City Council unanimously voted to deny two rezonings requested by the developers of the proposed Arbor Ridge subdivision.

The action last Thursday came despite a recommendation for approval from city staff and the De Soto Planning Commission, which voted 3-2 last month to recommend approval of the requests.

Lambie-Geer was asking that the 90-acre tract southeast of the 83rd Street/Kill Creek Road intersection be rezoned from its current R-1 zoning, which would allow 212 single-family homes, to a combination of R-1A and R-2, which would allow the construction of 181 single-family homes and 58 two-unit townhomes.

At the advice of City Attorney Patrick Reavey, Council members and Mayor Dave Anderson explained the votes in terms of the Golden rule courts use when reviewing zoning decisions. As such, they agreed the proposed development would put too large a strain on the city's water and sewer utilities and disrupt the character of a neighborhood now largely given to large-lot development.

The Council's decision can be appealed to Johnson County district court.

Litigation was a last resort for the developers led by Jim Lambie and Tim Zarda because of their continuing interest in De Soto, Simmons said. Lambie purchased 500 acres west of Edgerton Road that he would like to have annexed into the city for residential development, he said.

After the decision, however, Simmons would not rule out an appeal, given city staff's and the Planning Commission's recommendations for approval.

"We think we would have a very strong case," he said. "We haven't made a decision. We've got to find a way to use that property."

In a pitch well-rehearsed from his November presentation and an October appearance that led to a 2-2 Planning Commission deadlock concerning the rezoning requests, Simmons said the Council should remember the site's development potential under current zoning.

The subdivision Lambie-Geer was proposing would cause only an "incremental" increase in consequences to traffic and the city's water and sewer utilities compared with a full-blown R-1 single-family home development on the site, he said. A less quality-conscious development could level the site to build the maximum amount of single-family homes, leaving little or no buffering, he said.

The proposed rezonings were therefore better for neighbors and future Arbor Ridge residents, Simmons said. The townhomes, which were to be built just south of the Valley Spring Homes, would provide a needed buffer from the senior apartments in Valley Spring Homes.

That complex, the commercial property to its west (now owned by Lambie) and the existing homes on Kill Creek Road made for a mixed-use neighborhood, Simmons said.

Neither argument found favor with current eastside residents who filled the Council room. Equally well-prepared from past Planning Commission discussions, Stacey Zarr presented a chart that showed the development allowed under the rezonings would add 60 percent more traffic to city streets than a subdivision built under the current zoning. Her chart also showed the rezoning would increase water and sewer demand by 44 percent. That did not fit the dictionary definition of incremental, she said.

Neighbors said the recognized development was coming and said they were willing to accept an R-1 subdivision. R-1 zoning should serve as the buffer to larger-lot development to the east and south, Tim Cotton said.

On the key Golden criteria question of character of the neighborhood, all Council members sided with the neighbors.

"I don't dispute the fact Mr. Lambie would build a quality development," Councilwoman Mitra Templin said. "I think the character of the neighborhood requires larger lot development. Larger homes on larger lots -- that's the character of the neighborhood."

Council members also took exception with staff reports that the city could handle the increased traffic and water and sewer use caused by the development. Councilman Tim Maniez said he didn't think the Shawnee Street water plant, now used during peak demand days, should be figured into water department capacities.

The denial ended the developers second attempt to rezone the property for development. In June, the Planning Commission recommended denial to rezoning the property R-2.

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