Lawsuit talks continue
Negotiations to settle a lawsuit naming the city of Basehor filed by Commercial Group of Topeka will continue Thursday, Feb. 27.
City officials said they hope the two sides can reach an agreement that would lead to a dismissal of the lawsuit.
Under a proposal, Commercial Group would drop its lawsuit and receive reconsideration of its plans to rezone a four-acre tract of land at 155th Street and Crestwood Drive, from commercial to residential use.
The group wants to place a low-income senior housing development on the property.
"We've had some discussions with their attorney about the real reasons why it was denied," Basehor city attorney John Thompson said, citing the city's desire to keep the property as a future area of commercial enterprise.
Commercial Group was denied rezoning at the November Basehor City Council meeting.
During the meeting, approximately 200 nearby residents showed up in opposition to the development, which they said would adversely affect their lives and property values.
Commercial Group filed the lawsuit in response, claiming the city acted "unreasonably" and "unlawfully" when denying the rezoning. The group wants either a new hearing or the property rezoned.
The group contends they were not given a fair hearing and the rezoning was denied because of the opposition.
"They felt strongly enough about it to file a lawsuit," Thompson said.
During a meeting in January, City Council members agreed to inform Commercial Group of the city's reconsideration process.
Reconsideration would begin at the Basehor Planning Commission and then move to the City Council for final action.
"The City Council decided this is not something that needs to go to litigation," Thompson said. "They would rather focus on the substance of the rezoning rather than going to court."
Residents opposed to the development said they would continue to voice their opposition to Commercial Group.
But how much weight their opposition will carry in future hearings remains unclear.
Thompson points to a Kansas Supreme Court decision in 1978 said that "protests against proposed zoning change(s) may be considered, but protests against uses not proposed are not entitled to great weight."
However, in the same decision, the court upheld the right of a governing body to "prescribe zoning, the right to change zoning and the right to refuse to change zoning."
Thompson said the issue boils down to the city's right to govern its own future when dealing with developments.
"The real issue is whether the city wants to trade commercial property for residential," he said