From Jan. 1, 2017 till Nov. 3, 2017 the Gardner Police made 577 traffic stops in the shaded area.  The Johnson County Sheriff’s Department made an additional 692 traffic stops in that same time frame and area. The planning commission recently approved a subdivision Photo courtesy of Gardner Police Department

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Several adjacent property owners attended the Nov. 28 planning commission meeting to discuss traffic concerns with the proposed Tuscan Farms development just south of Nike Elementary School.
As approved, the development would eventually result in construction of 256 residential units on 82 acres on the west side of S. Center Street, just south of Nike Elementary School in southern Gardner.
Project construction is planned in three phases.
Phase 1 would build 70 single family residential homes on the northern portion of the 82 acre lot nearest Nike. Phase 2 would build 50 more single family homes, and a set of single story four-plex garden apartment buildings. The apartments would be on the east center side of the property. Phase 3 would build the final group of single family homes on the southernmost part of the lot.
The first of the three considerations regarding the Tuscan Farms development was request for rezoning. Currently, the land is zoned A, for Agricultural District. To facilitate the project, applicant is requesting rezoning of the property to R-1 (Single Family Residential) and R-3 (Garden Apartment District).
Staff recommended approval and advised opening public hearing at this point. Six patrons, who own property neighboring the development, came to the podium to speak during the 26 minute public hearing that also included discussion from Clint Burkdoll, development representative, and Tim McEldowney, city engineer.
The neighboring property owners expressed concerns about water drainage, increased traffic and buffering.
The property is just south of the I-35/S. Gardner Rd./191st St. intersection, which is already causing congestion and safety risks at certain times of the day. Residents expressed concern that adding more traffic from this subdivision will compound the problem.
“It’s getting at critical mass now. We add another 250 homes in there, with two drivers per household, that’s 500 vehicles added, coming and going on South Gardner Road. That’s a lot,” said Lee Warren, adjacent property owner.
Matt Hamilton, current resident immediately to the south, agreed with the other concerns and added that the R-3 zoning worried him.
“I would prefer that this body would see to stick with just R-1,” said Hamilton.
The proposed construction would build sets of four-plex structures that would make 48 individual units.
Clint Burkdoll, representing the developers, said he didn’t like to call them apartments and clarified that the units are not rentals. He described them as single story units attached in a pinwheel design, with private drives to garages on the side.
He said the maintenance provided units would probably not be designated as 55 and older, but expects it will attract older couples who want to downsize from larger homes.
Burkdoll said the 3 and 4 bedroom single family residential homes would start at $300,000 to $350,000, with some of the homes on larger lots exceeding $400,000.  The subdivision will include a pool, clubhouse and exercise room.
Burkdoll addressed the buffering questions.
“We’re doing that along Gardner Road to start with. There will be a nice entrance monument and then extensive landscape buffering along there, and it is going to carry around to the south,” said Burkdoll.
As far as road improvement in that area, that is a project that requires joint planning of the City of Gardner, Johnson County and the State of Kansas (KDOT).
Tim McEldowney, city engineer, said road construction in that area was probably still two years away.
“We’ll have our consultant do some preliminary work to see if there is any kind of minor improvements that can be made to the interchange and the ramps in the meantime. So far we haven’t found any reasonable solutions to that,” said McEldowney.
Heath Freeman asked McEldowney if he could address the water drainage. McEldowney replied that a storm water drainage study had been done. He said the initial study results indicated that water detention was not necessary, and the study was being vetted by another consultant before final approval.
After the public hearing, commission members discussed the project.
“That traffic is an animal of the intermodal itself that the city and the county and the state are all going to tackle together. I don’t know how long that’s going to be, but we can’t let that stop us from what is otherwise a sound development,” said Freeman.
Brad Austin, commission member, agreed acknowledging the traffic problem but saying that development shouldn’t be held back while waiting for that to be resolved.
Austin also suggested that growth could potentially speed up the road project.
Tim Brady, commission member asked if the developers had received any input or communication from the school district. Burkdoll said that a representative of the school had been at the annexation meeting and said he was one hundred percent for it.
At the close of discussion, commission voted with none opposed, to approve the rezoning.
Commission was then presented with preliminary plat for Tuscan Farms, which was approved with none opposed.
The third agenda item for Tuscan Farms was consideration of final plat. Following presentation and discussion, commission approved final plat by a vote with none opposed.
Originally constructed in 1959 when Gardner’s population was about 1600, today, Gardner’s population teeters at 20,000 and the Edgerton intermodal’s growth has brought traffic near 191st interchange to about 500 exiting I-35 per day.
According to Gardner staff, improving the intersection has several unique challenges, including:
• 191st Street Intersections being very close to the ramps both North and South of the interchange.
• Peak traffic generated by the intermodal and Logistics Park.
• Lack of funding for the bridge replacement and 191st street improvements.
• Lack of additional right-of-way.
• Lack of pedestrian access.
• Continued rapid growth of traffic impacting the level of service.
• Schools and businesses located in close proximity to the interchange construction.
“Preliminary and final design phases are expected to last into 2019, with construction bidding in 2019,” according to Michael Kramer, Gardner.
During the final phase:
•  Gardner, working with its consultant, will review various alternative concepts for the interchange configuration.
• Project will seek to engage the Gardner citizens and businesses through public meetings and outreach to understand and consider their needs and concerns.
•  Further traffic analysis and computer modeling of selected alternatives will be performed to ensure the selected alternative meets current and future traffic needs.
Although the city will receive funding from KDOT and MARC for the I-35 and Gardner Road and 191st Street interchange project, the city’s estimated share of approximately $2.868 million, plus estimated costs of issuance which is “not to exceed $3,040,000 and will be financed by General Obligation Bonds.
Although the city will receive up to $2.437 million in grants from the Johnson County Storm water Management and Johnson County CARS programs, the city’s share of approximately $1.59 million will be financed by General obligation bonds.