Danedri Thompson

There’s a bright orange and blue building in town, and I hope it stays that way. The colors aren’t ones I would choose for anything – shoes, curtains, a rug, a sweater – but they’re unique and interesting.

And when new occupants started painting the building, I had a good idea what sort of establishment would be opening there soon, even though a new sign wasn’t put up until long after the shocking paint had dried.

In the future, however, I fear bright buildings, individuality, charm and diversity will go the way of the Dodo bird in Gardner thanks to new design standards drafted by the wizards on Gardner’s Planning Commission.

The standards, which include giving city officials approval rights in color palettes for new buildings, were based in part on Overland Park’s design standards.

Now Overland Park is well known as one of the best cities to live. However, one magazine – while ranking the city in its Top 10 Places to Live – famously said that Overland Park “feels like it was designed by the folks who invented cubicles.”

Pretty much.

Soon, Gardner will feel that way too, and that’s a shame.

Gardner’s current crop of city officials is well-known  for their lack of  diversity in thought, so I guess it’s no surprise they dream of a community in which  there’s no visual stimulation either.

That’s really not the most offensive part of the new design standards. The folks in Overland Park seem perfectly happy in their cubicles. The human eye can distinguish more than 150 shades of gray, so we can probably distinguish between at least as many shades of beige.

No, the offensive part isn’t how the city will appear. The offensive part is the almost daily, hourly trampling of individual rights by our city government with no voices to the contrary.

The few citizens who regularly attend city council meetings appeared to nod in agreement as council members single-mindedly approved subjective standards without anyone ever making a testimony to individual property rights.

Elected officials should have some say in what affects the public interest. New structures should certainly be architecturally sound. But I fail to see how paint color affects safety or the health of residence.

How is the public best served in requirements that customer entrances must be clearly defined and “highly visible, with at least three of the following elements contributing towards this goal: awnings, porticos or overhangs; recesses/projections; raised parpets or gables; architectural details such as tile work and moldings; change in color or building materials…”

The list goes on and on and on for more than 20 pages detailing nine archetictual design elements including scale, proportion, symmetry, rhythm, transparency – this means windows, expression, materials, color and harmony.

No mention of the fire code.

For a group of appointed officials with the help of hired city staff to sit around for six months and create a completely subjective document by which to demand how private property is used is repulsive. For the citizens at large to pay the salaries of the hired hands that helped in creating the document – Melissa Mundt, assistant city administrator,  said one planner spent more than 25 hours per week for six months – is insane. And the design standards the council passed on Monday are just the beginning. City staff said they’ll now move forward to draw up more stringent signage guidelines.

For another (appointed) body to applaud their work with nary a mention of personal property rights is downright tyrannical.

Bright colors and independent thought aren’t only to be tolerated. They’re to be celebrated.

For the citizens to so docilely accept such behavior from their officials frightens me for our nation’s future.