Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2007

City Center moves forward

Council OK’s rezoning, preliminary plan for downtown proposal

September 13, 2007

The city of Basehor is one step closer to a revitalized downtown, despite some differences in opinion on the City Council.

Council members on Thursday approved a change of zoning and the preliminary development plan for Basehor City Center, a future development in what is known as the Mussett and Rix properties that will include new civic buildings, an elementary school and residential as well as retail developments.

Affinity Development has been working with the city for several months to get plans for Basehor City Center off the ground.

The Basehor Planning Commission has tabled the estimated $300 million development several times due to an incomplete application, but finally spent about four hours discussing the plan during last month's meeting. While the Planning Commission recommended approval of the plan with 16 conditions to council, city Planning Director Dustin Smith also presented some additional concerns at Thursday's council meeting.

"It doesn't appear that there was much consideration given to the Comprehensive Plan as far as design," Smith told the council, referring to the preliminary development plan for Basehor City Center.

While the city's Comprehensive Plan only encourages the policies it contains, Smith said, it doesn't mean those policies and goals should be ignored.

The development plan for Basehor City Center included elements such as numerous cul-de-sacs and double frontage lots and lacked any direct north-south streets, which are all contradictions of the Comprehensive Plan, Smith said.

Council members Jim Washington and Keith Sifford both questioned Smith's additional concerns. They said the Planning Commission had spent several hours on the issue and wondered why the Planning Department found more discrepancies in the plan.

"It would appear to me that the Planning Commission has pretty much done its work," Washington said. "That's the longest something has been in front of the Planning Commission, and yet you're coming back for what it seems to me looking for a second bite at the apple."

"It concerns me that there is such a wide gap between the opinion of the Planning Commission and yourself," Sifford said.

However, Smith said the Planning Department did not have a chance to review the development plan before it was complete because the developer did not wish to meet with the Planning Department to work out any concerns outside of a public meeting.

In a later interview, Smith said staff always encourages developers to meet with them prior to submitting plans in what they call a pre-development meeting. Smith said Affinity Development president Mike Duncan did not want to do that prior to or after the August Planning Commission meeting and ignored his concerns.

Duncan said he did not believe there were any unresolved issues with his plan and that he and the Planning Commission had spent four hours in a productive meeting last month working out any of those issues.

He said he had been through the development process with other cities several times and he had never been in a situation similar to what happened in Basehor.

"I've never had staff come up with its own agenda after the Planning Commission's decision," he said. "My response to him (Smith) was, I want to discuss this in a public forum under a governing body. It wouldn't do any good to sit there and talk about his ideas and my ideas if they didn't have any binding effect."

Duncan presented a rebuttal to the Planning Commission's conditions to the council, showing them the condition, what was discussed, how the issue was resolved at the meeting and included language from the Comprehensive Plan to show compliance. He did not have the chance to address all of staff's concerns because of time restraints, but he did talk briefly about the cul-de-sacs. He said having through streets rather than some of the cul-de-sacs would eliminate green space in the plan.

Several residents including George Smith and Dennis Mertz spoke in favor of the development during the Call to Public portion of the meeting.

Smith said a city's downtown is its identity and it was something Basehor did not currently have. The project would bring life to the largest undeveloped piece of property in town and while it may not match up exactly with the Comprehensive Plan, it goes with "the spirit of the Comprehensive Plan."

Mertz agreed.

"I don't anything is set in stone for Mr. Duncan except that he wants to give the town something nice," Mertz said. "Lets make it look nice and get something that we can all use."

John Flower, Planning Commission chairman, also spoke about Basehor City Center. He reminded the council that he was speaking as a resident and anything he said did not necessarily reflect the views of the Planning Commission. While the plan had the potential to create many positive things for Basehor such as enhancement and a tax base, he said, he worried about the financial portion of the plan.

He suggested that the developer's timeline and the city's timeline did not quite match up, meaning that the city will be responsible for financing the civic portion of the plan, such as a new City Hall and police station, but it may not be ready to do that right now, especially with the sewer plant issues the city is currently facing.

He said he didn't want the city to get in over its head with financing because any decisions made now will affect the city and residents for several years to come.

"The financing aspect comes later, but you need to start thinking about it," he said in a later interview. "It's a process that has to be in sync."

Washington expressed his support for the plan while Sifford said he still had some reservations.

"This is a project that has the potential to set Basehor apart," Washington said. "I think we need to go ahead with this and make sure it realizes the potential for the city of Basehor."

"I still share some of the concerns that Dustin Smith has," Sifford said. "We certainly have to weigh the cost and I think those are battles we'll have to deal with down the road."

City council members approved, 4-1, with Sifford opposed, a change of zoning and the preliminary development plan for Basehor City Center.

During the meeting, Basehor Mayor Chris Garcia added that while he didn't have a vote, he did have a voice and said that many of these issues regarding the Basehor City Center plan could have been resolved if the developer had met with staff before the issue came before the Planning Commission.

"We spent thousands of dollars on the Comprehensive Plan and we're going to follow it," he said. "I back my staff. The Planning Commission put in a lot of time - too much time if you really want to know. They should not have to deal with those types of issues and neither should this council. We need to think long and hard about this."

In other action Monday night, the council:

  • Voted, 3-2, with Terry Hill and Sifford opposed, to remove the city prosecutor.
  • Approved, 5-0, for a change of zoning from R-1, Single-Family Residential to PR, Planned Residential, and Preliminary Development Plan for Pebblebrooke, Phase II, as submitted by Pebblebrooke, LLC for property at 15609 Hickory.
  • Approved, 5-0, the conditional use permit for the property at 2722 N. 155th Street, as requested by JED Installation.
  • Approved, 3-2, with Iris Dysart and Washington opposed, an ordinance adopting the League of Kansas Municipalities' Code of Procedures to replace Robert's Rules of Order.
  • Approved, 5-0, employment of a part-time intern from the Kansas University master of public administration program.
  • Approved, 5-0, out-of-state training for the police chief.
  • Approved, 5-0, voting delegates for the League of Kansas Municipalities annual conference.
  • Approved, 5-0, change order No. 3 for the 147th Street and Parallel Road project not to exceed $4,375.47.
  • Approved, 5-0, pump repair at wastewater treatment plant for $4,951.

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