Archive for Thursday, December 20, 2007

Survey clarifies civic ideas

December 20, 2007

"Should Leavenworth County adopt building codes?"

"Would you participate in a countywide recycling program?"

"Should new rural residential subdivision developments close to a neighboring city be required to meet the city's design standards?"

These and 27 other "tough" questions were recently asked of approximately 120 Leavenworth County residents in a public opinion survey that will help determine the future growth and development of the county.

As planning consultants with Kansas City, Mo.-based Ochsner Hare & Hare spend the next two months formulating a draft of the county's 20-year comprehensive land use plan, they will use feedback from the survey to make recommendations to the comprehensive land use committee and the county commissioners before a final document is up for board approval in May 2008.

"(The comprehensive plan) is an attempt to find a consensus of how people want the community to grow and to put in at the local government level that consensus," Leavenworth County Planning and Zoning Director Chris Dunn said.

In a presentation to the county commission Thursday, Dec. 13, the survey results met mixed reviews.

A significant amount of attention was given to the question, "Should new rural residential subdivision developments close to a neighboring city be required to meet the city's design standard?"

Seventy-three percent of respondents, who were selected after noting they would be interested in answering more questions in a previous survey, answered, "Yes."

Dunn said that showed that residents supported contiguous growth and development consolidated around cities.

"What we're trying to do is create a growth area," he said, " : saying you have to build to a certain standard if you're this close to city limits."

Commissioner Dean Oroke asked how developers would be required to adhere to city codes, with Dunn mentioning interlocal agreements between cities and the county as a distinct possibility.

Dunn added that if plans to manage growth are made now, there would not be commercial or industrial uses in areas zoned for residential or agricultural purposes.

Although he called the comprehensive plan a "pro-growth, pro-commerce" document, he said that it could help preserve farmland by "consolidating growth rather than spreading it out."

Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson said that development would not come in the form of "three-acre pony farms."

"It's going to be 20 homes on five acres," he said. " : That's what it seems the people want, and that's the product I think we need to deliver."

Commissioner Clyde Graeber voiced some skepticism about reading too far into the survey results.

"Some of these questions I just find off the wall," he told Dunn.

In regard to a question that asked residents to choose whether road improvements should be made to Kansas Highway 5 from Lansing to Interstate 435 or to U.S. Highway 92 from Leavenworth to Platte City, Graeber said, "92's a great concept, and I'm supportive of it, but until you get (officials) in Missouri to play ball, you're just spinning your wheels."

Pertaining to support for a recycling program, a parks department and a countywide sewer system, Graeber said it's all well and good that residents want certain programs, but the commissioner questioned whether those residents understood that they would be paying for those improvements in tax dollars.

"I guess that's where the rubber hits the road," Jason Auvil, a county planner, responded.

Dunn pointed out that with some questions, residents were asked how to fund certain programs.

For instance, he said, a majority of respondents said that a parks department and trail system should be funded using a combination of fees to developers, county general fund revenues and a countywide sales tax.

Dunn emphasized in his presentation, "The public truly understands the complexity of the land use and growth issues facing the county. They get it."

Other results included: 72 percent said they wanted Leavenworth to grow economically and in population, 64 percent supported adopting county building codes, 63 percent supported creating a countywide sewer program, 60 percent supported developing a county hiking, biking and equestrian trail system, 82 percent would participate in a countywide recycling program and 60 percent said Leavenworth County should consider creating a parks department.

Dunn noted that the questions were deliberately designed to be "divisive" or "controversial," and he warned that the survey should not be considered scientifically valid due to budgetary and time constraints.

Consultants with Ochsner Hare & Hare will deliver an implementation plan for the comprehensive plan in mid-February, and after two more meetings with the 16-member, volunteer-composed comprehensive plan committee and the Leavenworth County Planning Commission, the Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing to discuss the document's adoption in May.

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