Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
During the public comment section of Edgerton’s March 8 city council meeting, several property owners adjacent to proposed rezoning made comments.
First to speak was Pat Peer, Spring Hill, who was concerned with the proposed rezoning of 256 acres at 207th and Waverly Road.
The rezoning is on land that the city annexed in December. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed rezoning to council. Peer said she was concerned with the process and believed it was moving too fast, with too little public input.
“What’s really bothering me is I feel like it’s a done deal before. Whatever NorthPoint wants or whatever the railroad wants, it’s done before you guys even consider it,” she said.
She said she didn’t know if it was true, but she had heard that the city was paying people $50,000 or $100,000 to people to request annexation.
She said the comprehensive plan hadn’t been updated to address land south of I-35, and no plans should have been made until it was. She said there was unused space north of I-35 and nothing should be built south until the north is full.
She wanted to know if an environmental study had ever been done. “Bigger and bigger and bigger is not always better,” she said.
Carl Peer, Spring Hill, said that when it began, the public expected 10 or 20 warehouses to be built around the intermodal and now there was a projection for 100 or more.
“That’s ten times more than we originally thought. Where is it going to stop?” he asked.
He said his family had lived here since 1912.
“So we know what Edgerton used to be like, and it was a nice little rural community; Gardner used to be a rural community, now it’s just totally out of control. It’s disappearing, and I would like for somebody to step up and take some responsibility to say, some progress is good but we can’t go hog wild, and we’ve got to control it,” said Peer.
After the Peers had finished, Don Roberts, mayor, assured them that it was not true that decisions are a ‘done deal’ before going through planning commission and council review.
He explained processes of public notice the city had followed and that public feedback is invited and heard, and they had participated in that by attending the preceding planning commission meeting and by speaking tonight.
He said everyone may not agree, but a process is followed to give all an opportunity to be heard.
“That is why we have multiple boards with multiple members so they can reason through decisions,” said Roberts.
Roberts addressed the rumor that the city was paying property owners to request annexation.
“We have paid nobody, ever, never will, to annex into the city of Edgerton. We don’t do that,” he said.
“Are you sure?” asked Patricia Peer.
“I stand 100 percent behind that statement. We have not paid anyone, ever, to annex,”,Roberts said.
Roberts agreed that the comprehensive plan needed to be updated, for many reasons, but said it was not the only document the city uses for planning. He noted that the comp plan was a working document that could be changed at any time; it does not dictate policy or action.
Lee Hendricks, city attorney, agreed.
On the question about environmental studies, Roberts said that two major studies had been done.
“When Burlington-Northern first bought the intermodal they did a huge effects study that looked at all the property around, they did a huge mitigation project, even larger than they had to do. They also did air quality tests for the first two years at the intermodal and provided that data to the EPA,” said Roberts.
The other study was done by KDOT when the Homestead Lane interchange was built. The scope of that study covered a much larger land area, as required by and reported to both state and federal agencies. Every time an addition is built it goes through a regulatory process of hazard mitigation.
To the question of why move south with space still available to the north, Roberts said one of two vacant buildings had recently been leased and that there was not room on the north for ‘Project Mustang’, which plans to build multiple one million sq. ft. facilities.
Roberts said that city does not control who buys or sells land. He said unless he sees proof otherwise, it appears that NorthPoint made a fair offer to property owners, and they accepted.
Roberts said the city does consider its neighbors and looks at potential impact. According to Roberts, the city asked, and NorthPoint voluntarily made efforts to lessen impact on bordering property, more than was required.
Roberts said that the council members sitting with him were “super honest,” their actions are above board and done in open meetings with minutes recorded.
He mentioned other intermodal rumors that had proven to be false speculation.
“What we present at planning commission and city council is the facts as we know them and we want to make informed decisions as we move forward,” Roberts said.
He told the Peer’s that if they wished, they could speak again when the re-zoning came up on the agenda and added he was always willing to meet with them any time to discuss concerns.
The rezoning was discussed later in the meeting and was tabled.