Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2006

City starts planning for west-side growth

March 2, 2006

Although Janet Stevenson has heard the right things so far concerning the city of De Soto's future land use planning for western growth, she remains concerned.

Stevenson and her husband, Keith, own about 10 acres of land north of Kansas Highway 10 near Evening Star Road. The Lenexa couple were among the 20 people attending a Feb. 22 joint De Soto City Council and Planning Commission meeting on what is actually two planning processes to address anticipated growth on the city's western and southern fringes. The meeting followed a Feb. 8 kickoff meeting, which attracted about 70 property owners of the area.

The planning processes involve developing a new land use plan for that area west of Sunflower Road to a line west of Evening Star Road and a more detailed area plan for that an area north of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant and south of K-10 and properties near the Edgerton Road exit (see map). The land use plan will be developed in conjunction with a series of public meetings the next two months, while work will start on the area plan in the late summer.

"I think it's great they are doing it," Stevenson said. "I just wonder if it's going to have any impact."

Stevenson's fear was that development pressure would eventually overwhelm any guidelines and plans developed. She cited another resident at the meeting, who contrasted the screening of Olathe's Cedar Creek subdivision from Kansas Highway 10 to that of newer development in Lenexa, where berms and tree plantings meeting minimum standards do nothing to protect the highway's scenic vistas.

Richard Wegner said he had lived in his Edgerton Road home for 25 years. Other than subdividing his lot to make room for his brother to build a house, he hasn't seen much development, he said.

"I like being out there where you don't hear anything but the geese when they fly overhead," he said. "It's a beautiful place out there."

Wegner would like to see development go elsewhere, but like many residents said he was resigned to growth coming to the area of large homesteads and a few remaining farmsteads. Like the Stevensons, he appreciated the city's advanced planning and openness.

De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson said the process was about future land use, not annexation or rezoning. The only annexation currently proposed for the area is one that would bring Lumber One into the city. That annexation was recommended by Johnson County planning officials because Lumber One currently doesn't meet the terms of an earlier business' conditional use permit with the county.

State law gives municipalities the right to plan three miles beyond their city limits, and those unincorporated lands in the area of study were included in the city's 2004 update of its comprehensive plan.

As a result of that update, the future land use for much of the area south of K-10 is listed as business park and mixed use. The area west of the city to Evening Star Road and north of the highway is classified as low- to moderate-density residential.

It was decided to take another look at the area because of last summer's transfer of Sunflower or Sunflower Redevelopment Inc. and the city's decision to construct its new sewer plant in the West Bottoms, on which work started last week.

Those new developments with the presence of K-10 interchanges at Edgerton and Evening Star roads make the area a likely target of developer interest, and -- in fact -- one developer has already put together 500 acres west of Edgerton Road and north of K-10 with an eye toward residential development.

The key to the area's growth was sewers, De Soto city engineer Mike Brungardt said in a summary of existing infrastructure and future needs during the joint meeting. There were a number of possible water providers for the area, including the city, Johnson County Rural Water District No. 3 or even Johnson County Water One, which could install lines to serve the area.

Sewer mains and treatment plants were much more expensive and topography and geology limits where service can be extended and who can provide it. At the bottom of watersheds tracing through the west side, De Soto is the only jurisdiction able to provide service to the area, Brungardt said.

However, Brungardt said the completion of the city's new wastewater plant in about a year would not in itself open up any new land for development. Without the installation of expensive mains, the only part of the study area in which sewers can be extended is that area south of the city and east of Sunflower Road, which is why it would the subject of a separate area plan this fall.

There is an existing network of roads serving the area with K-10, Edgerton and Evening Star roads and 95th and 103rd streets, Brungardt said. But he said it was important that those links be expanded and others added if De Soto was to avoid becoming two distinct communities as the west side developed.

Other routes that could affect the area were a north-south corridor through Sunflower and recent interest of developing a corridor from K-10 to a new interchange on the Kansas Turnpike near Tonganoxie, Brungardt said.

It was questions about the future of Sunflower that drew the most attention at the first meeting. De Soto officials said they did not have much to share more than the developer has promised to produce a development plan for the plant.

Anderson told the residents Sunflower Redevelopment spokesmen in the past have said the company's development plan would closely follow the county's Community in a Park master land use plan, which dates from 1998.

Sunflower Redevelopment Executive Director Kise Randall said the developer expected to seek requests for proposal for the master plan possibly as early as this month but certainly within the next two. Requests would be sent to the most prestigious planning firms in the country, she said.

Although there might be a wait as the selected firm clears its workload to get to the project, it was reasonable to expect the master plan's completion a year to 18 months, Randal said.

Like the county master plan, Sunflower Redevelopment would probably ask for a plan that looked at the area between the plant and K-10, Randall said.

Randall conceded Sunflower Redevelopment's schedule didn't conform to the city's completion of an area plan for the properties north of Sunflower. Still, she said she was hopeful the city and developer could remain flexible for an area where it seemed natural the two would have common interests -- Sunflower Redevelopment owns 80 acres surrounding the old surface water plant in the area to be studied.

It could be that the selected planner could dovetail what the city comes up with into a plan or the city could adopt what that planner develops.

"Planning processes are evolutionary," she said. "It could be they have such a great idea that it lights everyone's fire. That's what I'm hoping for."

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