Archive for Thursday, December 13, 2001

No firm foundation for town home plan

After public comment and developers’ pleas, council vetoes town homes 3-2

December 13, 2001

Before the Eudora City Council voted 3-2 against rezoning a plot of land near K-10 for town homes Dec. 10, it heard the same pro and con arguments developers and residents had been making since the idea came before the Eudora Planning Commission in early October.

Those against the development, which would have included 12 single family homes and 19 town homes, cited increased traffic, declining property values and the potential for the homes to become rental property as reasons why the council should shoot down the idea.

The developers told the council not only had they made changes to comply with suggestions from the planning commission and comments from residents of nearby neighborhoods, but they also were providing more-affordable housing and a buffer from the highway with the $125,000 homes.

Although council members Tom Pyle and Dan Gregg agreed, the developers' argument wasn't enough to sway council members Willene Blackburn, Doug Woods and Rex Burkhardt.

Blackburn said she voted against it at this time because the infrastructure wasn't there to handle increased traffic. Nearby residents also said without the completion of 14th and 15th streets traffic from the area would be pushed onto 13th and Peach streets in their neighborhoods.

Pat Shawbaker, who spoke during public comment, said the city should concentrate on constructing roads first and worry about development later. Although she doesn't live near the proposed development, Shawbaker said she was concerned with the image Eudora might project.

"This town needs to look nice," she said. "We don't need to drive down K-10 and look at apartments and rental property."

When residents of nearby neighborhoods told the council their opinions, many addressed the issue of rental property and/or multi-family homes in single-family neighborhoods. Many of those who spoke said they had lived in rental property, multi-family housing or mobile homes, but now they were looking for something better in a single-family neighborhood.

"I don't want to live near duplexes," said Jamie Andrews, who lives near 13th and Peach streets. "I want to be in a family town."

She and others who spoke said they feared if the town homes were eventually rented out, which developers said would be unlikely, the renters wouldn't care for the property.

Gil Riemann said when he lived in multi-family housing and mobile homes in the past, he lived next to other such houses.

"I'm not going to dog on a renter, but the fact of the matter is I didn't live next to a $190,000 home," he said. "People who live in them are just as respectable people. We're not saying because they're renters they're trash."

Council member Tom Pyle, who was in favor of the development, agreed.

"I rented here for eight years when I moved to Eudora, and I didn't consider myself a detriment to Eudora," he said. "I didn't realize 'renter' was a nasty word."

One neighbor spoke out in favor of the development. Ron Shanks said he has friends in Lawrence who live in a $140,000 duplex among single-family houses.

"It's a respectable place," he said. "They're respectable people."

After public comment, Lance Johnson of the Peridian Group, who represented the developers Wilson-Hoover Homes, said they had complied with suggestions and restrictions. Moreover, he said, adding the town homes wouldn't create as great an impact on traffic as neighbors said they would.

Johnson said he was shocked by the council's decision and disappointed because of all the time spent on the project. He said it was too soon to tell whether or not they would pursue the development.

Although a non-voting member of the council, Mayor Ron Conner spoke out.

"The vote is what it is," he said. "I sure thought this was an opportunity for a quality development in the area. I sure hope we haven't given up on the idea of quality."

Council member Rex Burkhardt, who said he supported town homes but not in this location, said the issue could teach the city an important lesson.

"It's times like these the city could appreciate a city administrator," he said.

In other city council news:

The council voted to keep Ed Hickman Environmental as a consultant to the wastewater treatment plant with an 8 percent pay increase under a 90-day stipulation whereby either Hickman or the city could break the contract. City Superintendent Bill Harlow said he favored retaining Hickman because of staff limitation in part because of the technical skills required for the plant, which is only one of three of its kind in the state.

The plant is only a year old, said operator Jerry Trober, and staff can't be expected to learn the complexities in "one day."

Council member Dan Gregg brought before the council the idea to eliminate appointed positions within the city and make the workers full-blown employees. That way, Gregg said, the city could have more control over contracts, and it would be easier for the city to eliminate those who weren't fulfilling the job requirements. Although he didn't intend for the council to make a decision at the meeting, Gregg said the issue should be discussed as the council searches for a city administrator.

The council directed Conner to meet with representatives from the Kansas League of Municipalities, who could help the city with the search, and discuss the issue further at the next meeting. Some council members favored the city taking its time in selecting an administrator, but Gregg said he wanted to see things move faster.

"Truthfully, you need deadlines," he said. "Otherwise you drag your feet."

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