Draft comp plan seeks to preserve city’s green space
The De Soto Planning Commission was presented with a draft update of the city's comprehensive plan Tuesday that introduced five new land-use categories to help the city prepare for the next 20 years.
The new categories were either updated replacements of those used in the city's first comprehensive plan or unique enough to be considered entirely new. Two dealt with preserving the rural or semi-rural character of neighborhoods and other attempts to ensure that rural areas in the city's growth path don't develop to the point that makes future subdivisions impractical.
Of most interest to those speaking at the public hearing on the draft plan was development patterns in eastern De Soto, especially along the Kill Creek Road and 83rd Street corridors. Not coincidentally, the Planning Commission is to consider a preliminary plat for the 181-home, 58-duplex Arbor Ridge subdivision Tuesday.
In an acknowledgement of the unresolved questions concerning the development pattern of that part of the city and also along 95th Street east of Lexington Avenue, the draft plan enclosed both tracts within "transitional development overlay districts." De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson suggested in a letter to the Planning Commission that a committee be created to study and make recommendations for the Kill Creek/83rd Street overlay district.
In response to a question at the public hearing, Planning Commissioner Roger Templin said developers would see immediate consequences of the overlay districts.
"What that means is if you want to put a development in there, you will be scrutinized because of the concerns you (the audience) and others have raised," he said.
The Planning Commission had a public hearing on the draft plan that will be continued at its scheduled Tuesday meeting. The Planning Commission will make a decision whether to recommend the De Soto City Council approve the document either at that meeting or at a special meeting in November.
City Planning Consultant Sean Ackerson said an emphasis in the draft gleaned from numerous public meetings during the past year was the preservation of De Soto's vistas and natural resources. Associated with that goal was an increased call for coordinated, planned development -- whether it be residential subdivisions or business parks -- rather than stand-alone lot applications.
The draft suggested natural resources could be preserved through the use of cluster development that would allow greater density housing in the city's various zoning classifications if a compensating amount of shared green space was reserved, Ackerson said.
Missing from the draft update were land-use categories for light and heavy industrial and undeveloped land reserved for retail commercial. Those uses were anticipated in large tracts north and west of Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant labeled for mixed-use and business park categories.
The change reflected current patterns that had commercial, light industrial, official environments and some residential units built in planned developments, Ackerson said.
As for residential, the draft land-use plan resembled a dartboard effect with residential patterns allowing for greater population density nearest the city's core, Ackerson said. The goal was to prevent leapfrog development that would create the need to extend city services to relatively remote areas, Ackerson said.
A new agricultural category was reserved for the rural areas to the south and west of De Soto. It would limit development to single-family homes on 20-acre lots.
The draft plan's next concentric ring -- on De Soto's southern and western limits -- was designated as urban service areas. Lots in what is seen as the city's future growth areas would be limited to at least 10 acres to prevent multiple smaller lots from choking off development by making property buy-outs too expensive, Ackerson said. Both the agricultural and urban service area designations align with Johnson County anticipated land uses for those areas, Ackerson said.
Within the city, the land use map shows De Soto buffered with large lot development from anticipated Lenexa residential growth to the east. The Cedar Creek watershed is the only area designated with the new rural policy area land-use category. It would limit development homes on a minimum of five acres unless part of a planned cluster development.
Cedar Creek's floodplain and the hilly topography of the area made it an unlikely candidate for high-density development, Ackerson said. The level of anticipated development would limit the city's need to install sewers or make other major infrastructure improvements in that area, he said.
But Ackerson and City Engineer Mike Brungardt noted the level of development pressure on the Cedar Creek watershed was dependent on the findings of study next year that will explore the location, cost and service expansion schedule of a new sewer plant now expected to come online in 2006 or 2007. The draft plan anticipated residential growth to the west, which corresponded to the current best guess of future sewer expansion, Brungardt said, but an eastern location could have a big effect on proposed land uses, especially along the 83rd Street corridor.
It was the area immediately west of the Cedar Creek watershed that drew the most comment during Tuesday's public hearing. The area, roughly a gravid rectangle bordered by Corliss Road on the east, Kansas Highway 10 on the south, 83rd Street on the north, and Kill Creek Road on the west, was divided into two different land use classifications. The section east of Waverly Road was designated low-density residential, while that to the west of that street retained the low- to moderate-density residential classification, which would allow the Arbor Ridge subdivision.
Marie Caldwell, who has opposed the proposed subdivision and called for large-lot development in the Kill Creek/83rd Street corridor, said the draft plan was development driven.
"A comp plan is supposed to direct development," she said. "I get the feeling the opposite is happening here. I ask for you to see that it doesn't happen that way."
Templin assured Caldwell and other speakers that the goal was a balance between preserving De Soto's attractive qualities and facilitating growth.
"Stagnation also affects your ability to survive in this town," he said.