Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2007

95th Street site rezoning recommended

July 26, 2007

Its owners hope that one of the most attractive future commercial sites in the city is more so with the recommendation it won for rezoning Tuesday from the De Soto Planning Commission.

Planning commissioners unanimously recommended the De Soto City Council rezone 61 acres immediately south of Kansas Highway 10 and northwest of the Kill Creek Road/95th Street intersection from rural residential to the city business-general district classification. The city's comprehensive plan envisions the site as mixed-use development that includes commercial, office and some residential.

The rezoning request was just that and came with no plan for development. The two properties owned by the "loose partnership" of Ralph Lewis and Bob Jackson are more than a quarter mile from the nearest sewer line and would --in the words of one owner -- require "a lot of money" to ready it for development.

But the two men said rezoning was the first step toward the site's eventual development.

"In order to increase interest in the property, it is important to change the zoning first," Jackson said.

The vagueness of the future development concerned William McMoran, who lives on Kill Creek Road south of the 95th Street intersection. The rezoning seemed to be "jumping the gun," he said.

"Part of me thinks development there is a good idea, but part of me wants to know what is going in there," he said. "I don't want to look at the back of a store or hotel."

The current street and water system couldn't support development, McMoran said.

Paige Huckabay voiced similar concerns about the future development that would occur across the street from her home on 95th Street.

With no development plan, there was little city staffers or planning commissions could say about the nature of future development. However, they did assure the neighbors that buffering, traffic, utility and other concerns would be addressed in the site plan review process. The neighbors also were told this particular site was in for added review.

"This is also a gateway area," Planning Commission Chairman Kevin Honomichl said. "That would cause us to give a lot more attention to what should go there. It's a view-shed area, as well. This area is going to get a lot of attention."

As for when it might be developed, Honomichl said economics would drive that decision "whether it's in 12 months or 12 years."

One economic factor is the expense of bringing sewer to the site. The two owners shared a study with the city two years ago that purposed connecting the site to the sewer line that terminates at the Huhtamaki Americas Inc. property. The plan also called for a lift station on the property so that the eastern acres could have sewers.

Brungardt said that plan was feasible but there were capacity concerns with the existing line. The city also assumes a gravity sewer line will eventually be installed along Kill Creek Road, but that probably would await further residential development along the Kill Creek Road corridor, he said.

This spring, city council members considered a similar sewer line from the Huhtamaki property south to 95th Street and west Lexington Avenue, which was estimated to cost $500,000.

Kill Creek Road and 95th Street, although listed as arterial roads by the city, would need substantial improvements with any development, Brungardt said. The Kansas Department of Transportation would not allow any direct access to development from Kill Creek Road, he said.

The property also could be affected by the County Arterial Road Network Plan. As Brungardt explained, the county never adopted a firm route for a future north-south arterial east of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant but, rather, shaded a corridor that does include Kill Creek Road and the property. One proposal would realign Kill Creek south of K-10 to the west by cutting through the southwest corner of the rezoned site, he said.

But as Honomichl said the Johnson County Commission never has approved any plan or purchased right of way for a road.

Despite all the questions and certain expenses, momentum would build to develop the property and the 95th Street corridor, Honomichl said.

"Ninety-fifth Street is the same as Renner Road and College Boulevard to 435," he said. "The relationship to 95th Street and K-10 is a huge asset."

The prospect of movement at such a commercially attractive site in a city desperate for added tax base was "exciting," Honomichl said.

Lewis said the only response he received from letters sent informing neighbors of the rezoning request was from an attorney representing the Simpson family, which owns the land across the Kill Creek Road from the two partners' site. A civil engineer had been retained to "maximize" the value of the land, which is now a rental property. The family might be interested in joining in an agreement to bring sewers to the area, he said.

The rezoning will be before the De Soto City Council Aug.16

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