The planning commission met last week to discuss rezoning, massage parlor codes. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Four items were on the agenda for Gardner Planning Commission to consider at their Dec. 20 meeting. Two of those items, rezoning of residential lots and a recommendation to prohibit massage businesses in residential homes, generated robust discussion.

Rezoning – Dairy Queen
An application requesting rezoning of two lots on the southwest corner of N. White and E. Shawnee was withdrawn by the applicants but remained on the agenda.
The properties, 116 North White Drive and 517 East Shawnee, are currently zoned R-2 (two family residential).
The original request for rezoning, from Michael and Joyce O’Connor, was for a change to C-2 (general business district).
On Dec. 14, the applicants withdrew the application.
Instead, they now request that the planning commission initiate rezoning of the two properties, plus the two adjacent properties to the south to CP-2, Planned General Business District.
The additional properties are the car wash at 518 E. Main and the Reece Nichols realty office at 526 E. Main. The O’Connors own all four properties.
“Why should we, as a planning commission, initiate anything, if the owners have withdrawn their request,” asked Brad Austin, commission member.
It was explained that this would allow the project to move forward without the applicants having to start over and pay additional fees for a new application process.
They already paid fees, but as discussions about plans for the site progressed, it became clear to staff that their initial advice to request C-2 would not be sufficient. Staff believed it would be fair and appropriate to seek a way for the applicants to avoid having to pay fees again.
According to staff, the only way to do that is for the planning commission to initiate the rezoning.
Tim Brady, commission member, also questioned the commission initiating the action.
“If we initiate this action, my fear is we give a false impression that we’re basically endorsing something we haven’t even seen yet,” said Brady.
Michelle Leininger, principal planner, assured members that wasn’t the case.
“Just because you initiate it, doesn’t mean you agree with it. It means that you have given it the OK to go through the process,” she said.
Leininger revealed that the developers were looking at putting a Dairy Queen in that location.
A primary issue that prompted the need to zone CP-2 instead of C-2, is the flood drainage ditch that runs through the middle of the properties.
The developers’ plans include modifications to that drainage system, so that a parking lot can be put above it.
Heath Freeman, commission member, made the motion to initiate the rezoning, seconded by Brett Limer, vice-chairman, and passed with all in favor.

Massage businesses as home occupation
Staff presented the commission with proposed text amendments to the Gardner Land Development Code (LDC).
An amendment to Section 17.03.020 would add language to define when approved construction plans are required during the platting process.
The other proposed amendments related to regulation of residential home based businesses.
The LDC already has a list of prohibited home occupation uses. Five items are listed – food and beverage services; retail operations; vehicle service and repair; gymnastics, dance or recording studios; and mortuaries.
Kelly Woodward, chief planner, presented the staff recommendation to add “massage businesses and similar uses” to the list of prohibited uses.
Staff noted policy of other areas cities, noting that Overland Park allows it, Lenexa does not.
Brady wanted to know if Edgerton had regulation for this. Staff didn’t know.
Current municipal code allows massage businesses, in business zoned areas, through licensing process.
A member asked why new regulation was needed if existing code already addressed it.
Larry Powell, business and economic development director, told the commission that licensed businesses will subject themselves to inspections several times a year, including “spontaneous” inspections at any time.
Powell brought up several other issues to point out that existing code considers only business locations and there are different concerns with a residential locations.
“It just seems to us that there are more negatives involved in allowing this as a home occupation than keeping it as a business location and separated out from residential,” said Powell.
Committee discussed the potential for nefarious activity against legitimate massage therapy.
One member shared that a family member who needs therapy for medical reasons goes to an Overland Park residence to get them.
Freeman was against the ban, saying he thought the amendment should be struck and left as is – and suggested that perhaps existing code should be reevaluated.
The recommendation to accept the amendments to the LDC were split into two motions and votes.
The item on massage businesses was separated from the others and denied.

Other items
Staff recommended approval of the final plat for Willow Chase IV, a nine lot residential duplex development at S. Moonlight Road and East White Drive. Commission approved the plat and forwards
Commission also approved site plans for improvements to an existing apartment complex at 151 W. Brittany Court. The plans are to expand the community space, do exterior renovation and build new trash enclosures.