Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

More communication would help balance city’s planning process

September 7, 2006

The current flap concerning the last phase of development in Oak Country Estates illustrates a truth. Developers have an inherit upper hand when seeking approval of projects. Despite what some may think, it's not an inherit bias. The city's regulations -- based on state laws -- are neutral.

But the truth is, developers know the planning approval process. Or if they don't, they work directly with city staffers who know its intricacies.

When property is being rezoned, the city is required to send letters to all neighboring property owners, post signs on the subject property and put public notices in this newspaper. Only a public notice of a public hearing is required for a preliminary plat.

Despite an account in this newspaper that a 24-home addition had been proposed and would be before the planning commission, no residents showed up when the De Soto Planning Commission considered the all-important preliminary plat.

But how many residents caught up in busy summer schedules understood the city's approval process? How many understood the right time to voice concerns about the plat's details was when the De Soto Planning Commission was considering the preliminary plat, which certainly sounds like something that could be changed?

Oak Country Estates was zoned years ago and nothing happened on the property in question for years. It can be assumed many residents figured nothing would change and the for sale signs on Kansas Highway 10 would remain a fixture.

It isn't the city's responsibility to pro-actively educate the public on the planning process, although staff members do share that information with those who contact them.

Although it's not required by state law, perhaps the city should go a step further and inform neighbors when preliminary plats are being considered, especially plats on planned additions that have stalled for years.

After all, participation is the goal. Added input might develop ideas about how to address past inadequacies or changes of circumstances.

Short of that, we would caution De Soto is going to see rapid change. To protect their interests, all residents should become familiar with the city planning process and be informed of any proposed new development.

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