Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fire district agrees to detach Arbor Ridge

November 17, 2005

In what both sides see as a peace offering, Johnson County Fire District No. 3 has agreed to the city of De Soto's request to detach the Arbor Ridge subdivision.

In a letter to the city stating their intention to detach the 90 acres southeast of the Kill Creek Road/83rd Street intersection, fire district board members Kent Dvorak, Larry Kroemer and A.J. Lang expressed hope the move would be an opportunity to start discussion of consolidating the two departments.

The De Soto City Council agreed to seek the detachment shortly after the Arbor Ridge property was rezoned from agricultural use to make room for a 215-home subdivision.

In a letter the city sent the fire district board in February requesting the detachment, the action was requested because of the property's proximity to the city core and fire station, the lack of contribution of the property to the fire district's current tax base and the city's need to finance fire department improvements.

The De Soto Fire Department's service area -- and its tax base -- is limited to old-town De Soto, De Meadows and the new developments on 87th Street. Vast tracks of the city south of Kansas Highway 10 and east of Lexington Avenue, including Oak Meadows, are in the fire district.

The split jurisdiction grew from past De Soto city councils' failures to request detachment during small annexations in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. After the Johnson County Commission's granting of a large annexation in 1999, the city returned to the commission with an unsuccessful request to detach that part of the fire district within the city.

De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson said he shared the hope that the board's decision to detach Arbor Ridge will help dispel any acrimony left from the detachment fight.

"I was very pleasantly surprised they took that position," Anderson said. "They said it wasn't a trend, but it is an olive branch.

"We look forward to talking about how we can work together."

The board's letter praised the council's decision to seek detachment of property before it had much tax value. Arbor Ridge is currently taxed as agricultural land, contributing about $200 to the fire district's budget.

But that will change. At the conservative estimate of $250,000 per home, a completely built out Arbor Ridge would equal nearly $6 million of assessed valuation for the city fire department. At the 2006 fire department mill levy of 9.856 mills, that would mean an extra $59,000 for the department.

That is significant to a city fire department that saw declining valuations in 2004 and 2005.

The board's letter also suggested the city and fire district build on the new spirit of cooperation with a meeting to discuss consolidation of the two departments. In past discussions, the council has tended to favor detachment.

At the suggestion of the county commission, the city council and fire board met in July 2003 for preliminary discussions about a resolution to the issue. There has been no follow up on those discussions.

For his part, Anderson said he was ready to talk about consolidating the two departments.

"The last time the council talked, they were interested in consolidation," he said. "I think that will be where we start."

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