Resident advises council more planning necessary
George Smith prefaced comments to the Basehor City Council Monday night by emphasizing he spoke before them "as a citizen, not as a representative of the Planning Commission."
In a brief, five-minute conversation, Smith urged City Council members to begin a complete overhaul of the city's comprehensive plan.
Although he spoke Monday evening as a concerned resident, Smith said issues he's voted on while a member of the Planning Commission influenced his opinion that more thorough planning is necessary for Basehor.
"There have been several things approved based on a weak comprehensive plan," Smith said.
"There's no way to say no, whether it looks like a good plan or not, because it fits the comprehensive plan," he added.
The comprehensive plan is a lengthy book, last updated in Basehor in the early-to-mid 90s, city officials said, which outlines and details the city's long-term outlook.
The city reviewed the comprehensive plan last year but not all changes have been adopted, officials said.
Development issues Smith mentioned as being developmentally questionable but fitting guidelines under the comprehensive plan include the building currently housing Community National Bank and a developer's plan to build a 248-unit apartment complex inside the Pinehurst development.
The building currently housing Community National Bank was built as a emporary structure but will be allowed to remain as a permanent one after the bank relocates to a new facility west of Basehor later this year.
After a lengthy debate and weighing the complaints of nearby property owners, the Planning Commission gave developers approval to build the 248-unit apartment complex.
The issue landed the city in a civil lawsuit; a judge found in favor of Basehor in the case but the decision is under appeal.
Other questionable development issues Smith mentioned Monday night that could be avoided with a thorough comprehensive plan are road access problems at Basehor Plaza and the proposed Maples subdivision.
After tabling the issue twice already because of road questions, the Planning Commission will meet again in March to decide the future of Maples.
The need for more thorough, in-depth planning also will prove necessary for the city in the future if Basehor is to decide the most prominent location for a downtown area, Smith said.
The debate of a downtown area seems to be split among two camps in city circles: those favoring a revitalized area along 155th Street and those that feel downtown would best be served by relocating south to 158th Street.
The city has formed a committee, composed of Smith and other city officials, to study the best solution to the downtown dilemma.
Smith said his comments Monday night should not be construed as a condemnation of the city or development. His stance is that Basehor finds itself at a critical time and planning carefully now only will help ensure a prosperous future.
"The city is being asked to do too much spur-of-the-moment planning," Smith said.
"We need a plan that's vision-driven," he added, "a picture of what we want our city to become."
Smith's words did not fall on deaf ears.
City Council president Julian Espinoza said he was pleased that Smith was focused on the city's future and agreed that more planning is necessary to facilitate a smooth transition between now and then.
"I don't disagree with him at all," Espinoza said. "None of what he said is a complete surprise and we know it needs to be done. It's just a matter of getting it done."
Espinoza said the hiring of two new employees to the city's staff would help Basehor to complete the planning process Smith spoke of Monday night.
The city has hired another inspector for the planning and codes department. The new inspector will begin work in Basehor Feb. 2.
Also, the addition of a full-time city administrator will help free up city staff and the City Council to dedicate more time to a vision for the city's future, Espinoza said.
"I think we're taking steps in those directions," Espinoza said.
"You try to do the best you can with what you've got, but that's not good enough anymore and we realize that," he added.