Larry Stricker’s farm is washing away, the Gardner resident told members of the city council last week.
“We’re getting a lot of silt onto our property. Silt is washing into our waterway and our waterway is now silted in with clay,” he said.
Stricker’s farm borders a large piece of ground owned by LS Commercial, the developer responsible for the Midwest Commerce Center where the Coleman warehouse sits today. Future plans call for additional warehouses at site.
In the meantime, Stricker says the farm his family owns next door is battling runoff from the Coleman facility in addition to noxious weeds.
The vacant land next door to the Stricker’s farm used to be farmland as well, but it was cleared when construction on the Midwest Commerce Center’s warehouse started a few years ago.
“They cleared the hedge rows out,” Stricker said of contractors who worked the project.
At one time, the hedge rows and landscape created a natural waterway between the properties. Now, Stricker told council members, water and silt drains onto property owned by Larry and his siblings.
A pond on the property is now completely silted in and the silt continues to build.
It’s a problem Stricker’s been begging someone to address for some time. He spoke to the state board of water resources. He requested assistance from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and another organization that deals with soil conservation. He’s also talked to county officials and city staff.
“I contacted all of these people, because my farm is washing away,” Stricker told council members last week.
Part of the challenge he’s had in mitigating both problems — the weeds and the run-off — is due to his farm’s location.
His property isn’t annexed into the city, but the neighboring LS Commercial property is. Plans for the commercial development were initially approved by the county, and then changed slightly when the city annexed the property.
The development required permits from the city to proceed with construction, but those permits, that might’ve allowed the city some regulatory space to help Stricker mitigate the drainage problems, have long expired.
Council member Kristina Harrison asked city staff what had been done to address Stricker’s concerns.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve heard from Mr. Stricker,” Harrison said. “I would like some sort of update about what’s happening with that.”
City officials said when the Midwest Commerce development expands, officials could request certain stipulations for drainage, but until that time, they have no jurisdiction to demand that Stricker’s neighbors fix the drainage issues.
David Greene, city public works director, said the city has no leverage with Coleman or LS Commercial, the property owner and developer.
“The city has taken all actions it can take,” Greene said. “When they have more development, we may have more leverage.”
City attorney Jim Hubbard said Stricker’s next option would be to hire an attorney to get the problem addressed.
“He’s looked to everyone else to solve his problem,” Hubbard said.
Stricker said in some cases, he’s simply asking that the city enforce its own standards. For example, he said, a noxious weed, Johnson grass is growing on the neighboring property.
“It can take over a whole farm,” Stricker said. “It’s all over that 150 acres on the LS Commercial property.”
It needs to be mowed and the property needs to be maintained, he told council members.
“When you spend $70,000 on weeds every year, you notice noxious weeds,” he said.
Under city code, the property owner should be fined for overgrowth of noxious weeds.
“Which one of you wants the $1,500 per day ticket?” he asked council members.
Land owner says Midwest Commerce Center detrimental to property