Archive for Thursday, December 20, 2007

Surveys help shape future plans

December 20, 2007

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

Among the questions were: 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?

Ochsner Hare & Hare, Kansas City, Mo.-based planning consultants, will 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 board of county commissioners before a final document is up for board approval in May, 2008.

The previous comprehensive plan, adopted in June 2001, made suggestions as to where zoning districts should go and created long-range plans for wastewater management, watershed management and for what road improvement projects should be considered.

"(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. "Ultimately the market will determine where growth will occur, but also the market prefers a well-thought-out master land-use plan."

Of the nearly 80 respondents to the survey who were selected after noting they would be interested in answering more questions in a previous survey, 72 percent said they wanted Leavenworth to grow economically and in population.

A majority of those surveyed also supported adopting county building codes (64 percent), creating a countywide sewer program (63 percent) and developing a county hiking, biking and equestrian trail system (60 percent).

Eighty-two percent of residents surveyed said they 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.

Respondents were also given the opportunity to submit additional written comments along with their answers to the survey.

Comments ranged from "Less jury duty summons!" to "Need better rural road maintenance," and from "I'm in favor of recycling" to "I am against the (County Road 1) interchange."

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 answered, "Yes."

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

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."

Another question on the survey asked residents, "What type of development would you like to see occur near the new (County Road 1) interchange?"

Responses were as follows: biosciences research park, 17 percent; industrial and heavy manufacturing, 15 percent; unknown, 12 percent; a planned urban mixed-use village, 10 percent; retail-commercial, like Legends or Zona Rosa, 9 percent; a regional transportation hub, 9 percent; whatever developers want, 7 percent; nothing, 6 percent; recreational facilities and lifestyle centers, 5 percent; suburban residential, 4 percent; a national tourism destination, 3 percent; and something else, 3 percent.

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."

"All the way through this thing, it tells me that people want to be progressive," Tellefson added.

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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