Joint meeting breaks deadlock on County Road 1 issues
Although not all issues were resolved, a joint meeting of the Leavenworth County Commission and the Tonganoxie City Council helped jump-start interlocal agreements regarding the Leavenworth County Road 1 corridor.
The county completed improvements to a 6-mile stretch of CR1 last year with the expectation it would develop with the new turnpike interchange that opened in December. Ad hoc committees of city and county representatives have been meeting since 2008 in an attempt to hammer out agreements of how to share the cost of the road’s improvements and establish development standards for the about 16-square-mile overlay district south of Tonganoxie.
On Thursday, the Leavenworth County Commission approved two interlocal agreements: one reconfirming the city’s financial contribution for recent improvements to CR1, and the second establishing a timeline for the hiring of a consultant to produce a master plan for development standards in the corridor.
In taking the action, the county commission also extended the deadline of a development moratorium on that part of the overlay district designated as Area 1 — a section of about four square miles immediately south of the city and north of Metro Avenue and along CR1 — from March 31, 2010, to April 30, 2010.
The earliest the Tonganoxie City Council could consider the agreements would be its April 12 meeting.
The Tonganoxie City Council requested the joint meeting last month as a way to resolve four issues that separated draft agreements prepared by the ad hoc committees representing each jurisdiction.
The four areas of disagreement were:
• The city’s demand for a deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, for the appointment of a consultant to conduct a land-use study and recommend development standards in corridor.
• The city’s request the consultant’s recommendations determine land-use and development standards in the corridor.
• The city’s demand its industrial park be exempted from future county-imposed development fees in the overlay district.
• City-supported language that would give the city extra-territorial jurisdiction in Area 1.
Two of the issues were resolved, one remained open to future discussion and a fourth set aside with the understanding a clause allowing either side to terminate the agreements with seven days notice provided sufficient cover.
The solution to the first issue, hiring a consultant, required money, a concern in tight budgetary times. The solution was found when city representatives agreed to pay the city’s first $100,000 payment for improvements to CR1 on signing an agreement with a promise from commissioners that part of that money and an equal city match would be used to hire the consultant. Commissioners also agreed to seek requests for proposal from consultants when payment was received, although the agreement itself establishes a deadline of 2014 for the consultant’s selection.
Commissioners, however, are seeking help elsewhere for the county’s share of the payment. The commission also sent a letter Thursday to the Leavenworth County Port Authority informing that body it “has no funds available” and requesting it fund the county’s share of the study.
The city had previously agreed to pay $1.5 million for the CR1 improvement, with $1 million to be paid in annual $100,000 installments from 2009 through 2018 and the remaining $500,000 at the end of that time through development fees expected to be collected in the corridor. The payment agreement becomes void if a consultant isn’t hired by the 2014 deadline.
The first of city payments due in September 2009 was never paid when the county failed to hire a consultant. The agreement the county commission approved Thursday would have the city’s first payment due 30 days after the city council approved the agreement.
Commissioner John Flower’s suggestion the city payment be used for the consultant’s contract with no additional city match failed to win support of other commissioners. Commissioner Clyde Graeber said commissioners had pledged to replenish the county’s sales tax fund used to make improvements to CR1 from city payments.
Graeber and Tellefson repeated their desire to keep the consultant’s fee “modest” or somewhere near $50,000, a figure repeated in the letter to the port authority.
The city and county failed, however, to come to agreement on how binding the consultant’s recommendations should be. In defining the city’s case, council members said they wanted assurance the money the city spent on the study produced results and its recommendations acted upon rather than made to sit on the shelf.
Tellefson and Flower said their concern was committing the county to unsustainable development standards.
But Tellefson said he and other commissioners wanted quality development in the area, and that was reflected by the county moratorium on development proposals and the high standard of the CR1 improvements.
It was agreed the termination clause allowing the city to end the agreement seven days with written notification gave it protection against county inaction.
County commissioners also cited the fear of unsustainable design standards in discussions regarding the city’s request for extra-territorial jurisdiction in the overlay district. But county commissioners did agree to give the city extra-territorial jurisdiction in Area 1.
Finally, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on the collection of a proposed development fee in Area 1. The underdetermined fee would add a per-square-foot tax, such as the city’s 9-cent per-square-foot-excise tax, on any development in the overlay district.
Tellefson said he would not support removing the fee from the agreement now, although he was open to discussion on the fee in the future. With much of the benefit of development in the overlay district likely to be written off with abatements, the development fee was the assured benefit of the investment in CR1 to those in northern Leavenworth County, he said.
Tonganoxie City Councilman Jason Ward said further discussion of the issue was probable.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if that was a living document that changes (the fee) year to year or decade to decade in that corridor,” he said.