Archive for Thursday, January 12, 2006

Growth issues dominate forum

January 12, 2006

Although citizens broached several topics during Saturday's open community forum with the Eudora City Council, most of the discussion boiled down to issues concerning Eudora's growth.

"When we hit that 10,000 mark either we need to blossom, or we screwed up," said City Administrator Cheryl Beatty.

From updates on sewer rates to wide agreement on the need for commercial growth and upcoming development, the forum gave about 25 community members a chance to express their concerns in an informal setting.

City council members Scott Hopson, Bill Whitten and Lori Fritzel attended the forum along with Mayor Tom Pyle and Beatty.

"Things are happening. It will be slow to start," Beatty said. "I would say if the public would support the schools, and support the recreation facility, you'll see a major difference and (the city) turned around in a five-year period. But it won't happen if people won't support it."

Members from the Awareness Coalition of Eudora also attended and brought a list of questions of their own.

The first issue the group discussed concerned the city's storm drainage issues. ACE member Mark Anderson suggested the city look into stream buffers to help control flooding problems.

"I think stream buffers are really a critical thing, and the city should be looking into that," Anderson said.

To further help with storm issues, Anderson suggested the city also look t conserving open spaces, which could double for walking parks.

"I think a lot of people are starting to envision it would be nice to have an open space like that with a walking or a jogging type trail," said ACE member Robert Smoot.

Beatty said the city is working to change ordinances to become more up-to-date with storm-water control.

At the same time, the Wilson and Hoover LLC's proposed Deer Valley subdivision looks to incorporate open spaces into its design.

"That's exactly the kinds of quality-of-life issues we're working at right now," Beatty said.

The city continues to look into higher park impact fees on development so that it can eventually increase the parks and recreation department's budget, Beatty said.

"We have already discussed that and there were some ideas thrown around on how to increase that, so that's in the works also," said council member Scott Hopson.

During the forum, Beatty told citizens the city will be working with the budgets to regain a cushion for utility funds, which had been drained within the past decade.

"To build some faith in the public, I do want to mention that we are restructuring the accounts so it's easier to read and easier to manage," Beatty said. "Government accounting is not the same as regular accounting; that's very difficult for people to understand."

As the city works to restructure the utility budget, Hopson reiterated the need to raise sewer rates to pay off a loan from Kansas Department of Health and Environment used to finance ongoing improvements.

"The city of Eudora cannot go in the hole -- it's not allowed by budget -- and we're going to be the bad guys for doing what we're responsible for doing, and that was asking that these utilities stand on their own," Hopson said.

Despite the sewer hike, the council is doing all it can to avoid raising taxes, Hopson said.

Another constant theme during the forum concerned Eudora's pressing need for new business as a way to bring in more people.

Most looked at the Deer Valley development as a step in the right direction.

"What Hoover and Wilson are proposing is going to drastically change our situation and it's going to attract more people," Hopson said. "That's a big plus for a community."

While the forum gave citizens an opportunity to bounce ideas off their elected officials, it also gave members of the city council a chance to test ideas of their own.

Specifically, Pyle asked the gathered citizens how they felt about an issue concerning zoning for trailer homes.

According to current ordinance, several trailer owners are restricted from upgrading their homes because of size restrictions. The original aim of the ordinance was to get rid of isolated patches of trailer homes in Eudora.

The trailer owners have petitioned the Eudora Planning Commission for a zoning change and failed to get a positive recommendation, which left the council with an option to either approve the spot zoning change, deny the zoning change or find a third option.

The council was leaning toward a third solution, which would basically grandfather the current trailer owners in, yet have the trailer removed when property changes hands.

Another option would involve a possible grassroots Eudora Habitat for Humanity project.

"If that's added to what you're talking about, that's a great option," Smoot said.

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