September 3, 2014

Church asks city to help fund road on vacant land

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
First Light Methodist Church asked city council members about sharing the cost of a proposed road during a work session last week.
The idea appeared to be a non-starter for council members, as they discussed the possibility of the church constructing a community center on a plot of ground near where U.S. 56 Highway splits from 175th street on the west side of town. The church, which currently meets at Gardner Edgerton High School, is considering purchasing more than 11 acres just north of Meadowbrook Rehabilitation Hospital on 175th Street.
Initially planned as a residential development, the church also asked if they could forgo building a planned east-west road for the north side of the property. Instead, Brad Wheeler, First Light’s pastor, said they’d like a road that dead ends on the north side of the property to become a cul-de-sac on church property rather than a street running through the property connecting to Buckeye.
Wheeler also asked if the city could help foot the cost of extending Buckeye Street, which dead ends on the north side of the property, to 175th Street.
Wheeler noted that the city agreed to fund the extension of Grand Street as the school district develops land for two new schools – an elementary school and a middle school.
Wheeler asked if in lieu of extending Buckeye, the church could instead  give  the city right-of-way on the property. He noted that the church is a non-profit that benefits the community.
“The challenge I see is we’re stepping off into a policy decision,” Mayor Dave Drovetta said. “We’re saying if a not-for-profit chooses to build, we’ll build a road.”
First Light currently owns land near Pioneer Ridge Middle School, but church members are considering building instead on the land Wheeler brought before council on April 9.
He said the location would better suit the church’s purpose.
If the church moves forward with the land purchase, a first phase of building would include a multi-purpose facility to be used for youth activities during the week.
“We don’t want it to be used just for worship,” Wheeler said.
However, building two roads on the land would increase costs beyond what the church can afford.
Wheeler also asked that the extension of Buckeye Road through the east side of the property be moved as far east as possible, though current plans require the intersection of Buckeye Street and 175th Street be curve to the west through the property.
Council members said some of the road developments would need to Kansas Department of Transportation approval, because the initial plans for the property are part of the state’s U.S. 56 Corridor Plan.
Council member Kristina Harrison said the land was originally platted for several houses on either side of yet-to-be developed streets. With only one owner, the need for streets through the property is limited.
“As long as this land sits vacant, it’s obvious it’s not going to be developed residential,” she said.
Chris Morrow said council couldn’t give the church definitive answers about exactly how the roads would need to be developed, although the group did appear to reach a consensus on allowing a cul-de-sac rather than a through road on the north side of the property. However on several other questions, Morrow said he wasn’t ready to give answers.
“Maybe you should move forward conservatively thinking you’ll need to pay for roads,” Morrow said.

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