Danedri Thompson
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Over the objections of the planning commission and city staff, Gardner City Council members approved the rezoning of 156 acres from residential and commercial to agriculture. The rezoning request was made so the agriculturally zoned land can be used for oil production.
A representative from Thomas Oil Wells made the formal rezoning request during an April 28 planning commission meeting. Planning commissioners forwarded to council a recommendation to reject the proposal. However, after hearing a presentation during the May 18 city council meeting, the governing body opted to approve the rezoning.
A representative for the landowner told council that the property is owned by a lifelong resident of the area and a Gardner Edgerton High School graduate Joel Thomas.
“This is not an investor who is coming to make money from the outside,” the representative said.
Planning commissioners and staff worried that oil wells may impede commercial development in a prime area.
“While it would appear that down zoning the property to the agricultural district would be minimally impactful, consideration must be given to what uses are permitted in the district for future development,” a staff report to the council reads.
The comprehensive plan identifies the area at 167th St. and Waverly Road as a short-term growth area. It is within a mile of a Pioneer Ridge Middle School and is on the edge of existing development.
“The city is starting to see development become active and by changing the zoning of the subject property, it could cause development activity to be delayed or development to leapfrog over the property to an area where existing infrastructure and community facilities are further away,” the staff report reads.
During the May 18 council meeting, Thomas said Thomas Oil Wells would be willing to maintain the commercial zoning designation on 25 acres of the 156-acre original request.
“It was something I felt like would be important to the city to have that portion that is zoned commercial so it would not impede that development,” Thomas said. “It was my good faith effort to give something to the city that I felt would be important to you guys.”
City attorney Ryan Denk said council could not make changes or stipulations to the proposal the planning commission heard without sending it back to the commission for another public hearing.
The governing body instead opted to approve the request for rezoning without amendment. However, the council and property owners appeared to reach a consensus to immediately start rezoning 25 of the 156 acres back to commercial.
During the planning commission meeting, Thomas Oil Wells representatives said both the city and the landowners hope to eventually develop the property for commercial or residential use. They said the oil wells would be capped when the opportunity for commercial or residential use arose.
However, the applicant requested a 30-year conditional use permit (CUP) to allow for more than 30 oil wells on the property. The planning commission recommended rejecting the CUP request.
The governing body held off on approving the permit, as council members appeared to agree that a 20-year CUP would be preferable. Council will consider granting the permit request some time next month.
In other business, council members:
• authorized the city administrator to execute a three-year contract with CenturyLink for internet service. Under terms of the agreement, the city will pay $1,260 plus applicable taxes and fees each month for the service.
• held a public hearing for the city’s Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) application. The city will request up to $200,000 in grant funding to renovate the Senior Citizen Building. The grant would require a city expenditure of up to $50,000.
• approved a rezoning and final plat for construction of an Orscheln Farm and Home Store near 188th St. and Gardner Road.