An artists rendering of the proposed Tallgrass apartment complex. The city council approved a rezoning application for the development at an Aug. 19 meeting. Submitted graphic

Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
A contentious rezoning application by developers of a planned apartment and duplex complex off Moonlight Road was approved by the Gardner City Council during a meeting Aug. 19. Area residents voiced opposition at the meeting.
Tallgrass development, a 596 unit apartment and duplex complex, has drawn strong opposition from owners of neighboring properties including a failed petition made to the planning commission.

Almost 60 Gardner residents attended a council meeting at city hall on August 19 to voice their opposition to the proposed Tallgrass apartment complex. Staff photo by Albert Rukaro

The planning commission approved the development in a July 23 meeting.
More than 60 property owners in the Moonlight Road and University Dr. neighborhood showed up at the council meeting and urged the council to reject the application.
Several residents who spoke at the meeting cited varied reasons for opposing the development.
Most of the complaints centered around the effects the complex would have on property values and traffic on Moonlight and adjoining streets , and the strain the added population would have on schools and the police department.
One of the residents, Jake Williams, claimed there was a natural spring in the middle of the property and that the city had not conducted an environmental impact study before proceeding with the development.
“How is the city not concerned about the effects downstream of the stream,” he asked.
The residents also claimed that they either never received notices of a public hearing on the matter or received them late.
Kansas law requires the city to send notices of a public hearing to citizens who may be impacted by a development at least 20 days before the hearing.
Todd Bleakley, the developer, said the plan is the culmination of a four month effort by his team and city staff, and it included outreach to the police department, the school district and the fire district.
None of those entities voiced opposition to the plan, he said.
Mark Baldwin, councilmember, said he heard the emotion of the concerned residents, but he can’t use that to reject the plan.
Rich Melton, councilman, echoed Baldwin’s sentiment declaring “we don’t act on feelings here. I know it’s not popular, but we have to have a very firm legal standing.”
Randy Gregorcyk, councilmember, said the residents are also investors in the community, and their concerns should be taken into consideration.
He proposed sending the application back to the planning commission for further study on the buffering between the apartments and the current single family homes.
Todd Winters, councilmember, seconded the motion saying that the current plan will put high density apartments next to some of the most expensive homes in the city.
With Steve Shute, mayor voting in favor, but Melton, Baldwin and Lee Moore, councilmember, voting nay, the vote was deadlocked, and the motion failed.
Melton then proposed voting to approve the motion as presented. That motion passed with Shute, Baldwin and Moore supporting and Gregorcyck and Winters opposing.