Danedri Thompson
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A unanimous planning commission will recommend city council members approve an application to rezone 22 acres of property on South Stone Creek Drive from light industrial to planned two family development.
During a Sept. 22 meeting, city planner Chad Bahr told members of the Gardner Planning Commission that city staff recommended approval of the rezoning request. Under the proposal, rezoning would allow developers to create an 84 unit duplex development.
“They’re envisioning these units to be used as rental units,” Bahr said. In the future, developers might opt to sell the duplexes to individual owners.
The property, part of the Moonlight Industrial Park, has a tumultuous history. This isn’t the first request to allow multi-family housing there.
The council in the past has three times voted against the rezoning request, citing traffic concerns on Moonlight Road.
Currently a bank-owned property, the previous owner, Stan Stanton, requested that the city rezone the area from agriculture to light industrial.
Stan Stanton purchased the property in 1997 with the intention of developing a business park with a warehouse distribution facility, a motel and a convenience store.
He said he was told at the time that there would be a future interchange at Moonlight Road and Interstate 35 that would have made the property marketable.
When the interchange failed to materialize, Stanton told The Gardner News in 2009, the development failed.
“It is a dead park,” he said.
A small business park was developed at the site, with plans for additional, similar development at the site. The city’s development plan and future land use maps suggested that the area would be used in that fashion.
When the overpass did not come to fruition, the then-owner Stanton requested to rezone the property to allow for the construction of 344 apartment units in 15 buildings. Staff recommended denial of that project, and school officials opposed the project.
Bill Miller, then director of operations for the Gardner Edgerton School District, told council and planning commissioners that high-density residential property there would add too many students to the then-near capacity Moonlight Elementary and cause traffic concerns on Moonlight Road.
A 2009 planning commission disagreed, voting 6-1, to send a recommendation to rezone the property for the high-density apartment buildings to the city council.
After hearing testimony from school officials and city staff, a divided council rejected the proposal.
The current proposal is for a much lighter residential use of the property.
Curtis Holland, attorney for the bank that currently owns the property, told planning commissioners last week that residential zoning makes sense there.
“Hopefully, you will agree that it’s appropriate to rezone,” Holland said.
Holland also served as Stanton’s attorney on the proposed 2009 apartment development.
Since the rezoning rejection in 2009, a Grand Star Elementary and Trail Ridge Elementary have were built in the area, and Grand Street was extended to stretch from Moonlight Road to Gardner Road to serve those new schools.
Appropriate uses for the land as it is now zoned include tow lots, construction yards and body shops.
After the rezoning was rejected, Stanton deeded the property back to the bank and threatened to sue the city. He told The Gardner News in 2009 that the failed development cost him $6 million.
Stanton said after the vote that he would seek the “most miserable, obnoxious, nasty use,” of the property.
“We may offer the first lot damn near for free,” Stanton told the council.
Holland told the current commission last week, that the property has just been sitting there ever since.
“It’s finally time to develop this little corner of the city that’s just frankly, kind of been sitting there,” Holland said.
Gardner City Council will discuss the planning commission’s recommendation for rezoning at a future meeting. The only current council member to vote on the project previously is Todd Winters. In 2009, Winters voted with the minority to approve the rezoning request.