Mayor Todd Winters proclaims June 10, 2022 as MARC 50–Forward Day. The Mid-America Regional Council has partnered for half a century on regional initiatives to develop innovative solutions, he said. Winters said MARC 50–Forward Day recognized the enormous progress the region will continue to make over the next five decades. Carol Gonzales, director of finance and administration for MARC, said they appreciated Gardner’s value and partnership. Staff photo by Lynne Hermansen

Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
The preliminary plan and rezoning of land for the University Park Apartments at the northwest intersection of 167th Street and White Drive was approved Monday night.
Erik Van Potter, council member, and Todd Winters, mayor, voted against the project.
David Knopick, community development director, gave a brief overview of the project and said the project had been through three planning commission meetings since February.
“It is a more prolonged process then is typical,” he said.
Knopick said they had met with the fire department and school district who said they were comfortable with the project.
“It fits and meshes well with the school district,” he said.
The land is being rezoned from RP-3 Garden Apartments to a RP-5 Planned Apartment District consisting of 32 townhomes and 574 apartments  with a clubhouse on 35.5 acres.
Knopick said the townhomes had been moved further south from the north end to preserve the tree line, the new zoning would create less density but the four story buildings would allow for more units and the elevators would make the units more sellable to Seniors.
“More Seniors are interested in apartment living,” he said. “There has been more Senior interest than anticipated and a shift in the marketplace.”
Knopick said as part of the approved project a transportation impact study and storm water management plan by the City of Gardner Public Works Department and construction of a 10 feet wide trail on the north side of 167th Street with an attachment to the proposed internal walkway system would also have to be approved.
Brian Keeney, resident, addressed council members during public comments after attending all previous planning commission meetings.
“Four stories is pretty extensive,” he said. “Our homes are in the Copper Springs subdivision, and we are overextended in density for the area already.”
Keeney said he had invited the Planning Commission to come out to his backyard to see how close the townhomes would be to his property at 200 feet.
Lenexa and Olathe do not allow four story residential units so close to single family homes, he said, and he wanted to know why Gardner had to be the first.
“Do your due diligence. Do your homework first,” he said. “I give credit for working with us but you’re not doing much for us.”
Jim Claussen, principal with Phelps Engineering, said they had been working hard to make the project better especially with the extra 30 day process which he felt was good for the project.
“Taking it to four stories allows more greenspace because we went more vertical instead of spreading out,” he said. “All stairs and no elevators would have made it untenable too.”
Claussen said the units will have carports, garages, a clubhouse and lots of amenities and the project will be built in two phases.
“I appreciate your consideration of the project,” he said.
Mark Baldwin, council president, said there was never a perfect scenario for four stories ever but approved of the project after the width of buildings had become narrower and more aesthetically pleasing.
Tory Roberts, council member, said she agreed with Baldwin.
Kacy Deaton, council member, said her biggest concern was traffic at 167th and White Streets.
“The intersection is already difficult and crowded,” she said. “And with the blind hill especially in rush hour.”
Knopick said the traffic study had factored in the Tallgrass apartments and University and White Streets along with intersections at Moonlight Road.
“Moonlight and 167th will eventually have to be signalled,” he said. “Traffic engineers reviewed it and are comfortable. The corridor is attracting a lot of interest and more improvements will be needed.”
Janelle Clayton, Phelps Engineering traffic consultant, said Moonlight and University warrant traffic signals because of the projected three percent future growth which was considered high.
A eastbound turn lane is needed on to White Street along with a southbound right turn lane at 167th and Moonlight, she said.
Steve Shute, council member, said he wanted to hear the public works department perspective on improvements for 167th Street as it was a narrow, farm road with no shoulders.
Kellen Headlee, public works director, said development pressures in this area of town were accelerating improvement needs at 167th Street with possibly turning it into three lanes from Moonlight to Center Street.
A preliminary design for the corridor needed to be prepared and come out of the current funds, he said.
Knopick said the further West on Moonlight Road the lower the density.
“The closer to Moonlight the closer to commercial development—that’s where it gets dicey—it’s a major attraction of density and development,” he said. “It is best to accelerate from a financial standpoint.”
Winters said could they allow four story units.
Knopick said the zoning allows for it and it is also controlled by the development plan.
“Once you lock in the height any changes have to come back through the Planning Commission and the process starts over again,” he said. “We’re not allowed to do just do whatever is allowed.”
Shute said he wanted to know the tallest building height for the project.
Claussen said 48.49 feet was the tallest unit.
Knopick said the Hampton Inn by the Walmart stands at 62 feet.
“The four story units are stairstepped with the middle portion rising to four stories,” he said. “It’s not just a four story rectangular block.”
Van Potter said his biggest concern was he wasn’t sure what the rules were in the area when resident Keeney and his neighbors had bought their homes.
“And now suddenly we change the rules,” he said. “Frankly I think it is unfair.”
Van Potter said he thought if they changed it they could change it again.
“It is unfair to the people who have been with properties there for years,” he said.
Knopick said the original Garden Apartment zoning would have allowed for a 40 foot building at three stories and this was just being raised by little under 9 feet.
“The configuration of density is changing,” he said.
The 2014 City Comprehensive Plan had identified the area for future residential growth.
Council members approved the rezoning of land northeast of the intersection of Highway 56, West 175th Street and Cedar Niles Road from Agriculture to Restricted Industrial to a Heavy Commercial District.
Knopick said the request was different than normal because it was for zoning without a definitive development plan.
The request had been received March 7 for the area northeast from McDonald’s and conformed with the comprehensive plan, he said.
Knopick said it was an important area of growth because the city only has two interchanges off of I-35 to attract visitors for commercial development regionally.
The plan has to also go to the Airport Commission because it is within one mile of New Century Air Center.
“They will be interested in safety and operations,” he said. “We look at land use.”
Knopick said approval of the proposed recommendation required four conditions from limiting the land use to commercial development and not industrial use, a preliminary plan to take place and the county sees merit in it with a county review, land use intensity with development not moving further west towards the flight corridor and plans and applications are subject to review by the Johnson County Airport Commission and Board of County Commissioners.
Roberts said she liked the idea of developing the area.
Baldwin said development of the area would be excellent for the community.
Shute said they had been trying to crack this egg for awhile.
“I’m particularly excited for more options for citizens,” he said. “And bringing out of town residents in will increase our tax base.”
Knopick said he hoped it would be considered as there was a lot of focus on protecting the Airport operations.
Public hearings set for June 6 were approved for the Tuscan Farm Phase 1a Infrastructure Special Benefit District and Tuscan Farm Area-wide Infrastructure Special Benefit District.
The Public hearings will focus on proposed modifications to a special benefit district and proposed special assessments to be levied with certain improvements, Matt Wolff, finance director, said.
He said they were both created in 2019 and the amended petitions change the assessment methods to equally per lot from square foot for a proposed 20 year term from the original 15 years.
Wolff said Phase 1a will be for a maximum cost of $1,085,000 including costs of issuance for temporary notes and long-term bonds and the interest expense on temporary notes. The Area-wide Infrastructure Special Benefit District will be $2,065,000.
Steve Shute, council member, said he had been looking at some numbers and wanted to know the term and extension time period.
“What does the market look like for GEO bonding and is there any risk of extending—any exposed risk,”he said.
Tyler Ellsworth, bond counsel, said it was a good question.
“Increasing the term is not a risk and will actually have the opposite effect,” he said. “It decreases the payments and makes it more affordable.”
Ellsworth said developers had had a lot of success in the neighborhood with 100 percent support from home owners.
The city approved the 2022 Community Development Block Grant application.
Amy Nasta, deputy city administrator, said staff was proposing $162,800 with a City match of $20,000 for the additional sidewalk construction on the south side of Santa Fe Street between Conestoga and Walmart.
“It is the largest sidewalk gap,”she said.
A public hearing was held at the beginning of the meeting. No one came forward to speak.
Shute said he was glad the hole was being filled.
Kellen Headlee, public works director, said it will connect to Walmart and will be the last of improvements at Conestoga.
Tory Roberts, council member, said it will provide a lot of much needed safety.
The addition of Juneteenth as an city employee holiday was also approved.

Gardner Lake
Jim Pruetting, city administrator, gave an update on questions city council members had asked about regarding Gardner Lake and the Spillway at the last council meeting May 2.
Mark Baldwin, council president, said he had concerns during the May 2 meeting about the Gardner Lake Spillway project funds listed on the Capital Improvement Program for the next few years.
The estimated $798,000 project would remove the current spillway and replace it with a new concrete one that is similar and doesn’t include any pedestrian modifications.
He had suggested at that meeting the city should speak with the Lake Association about charging the 440 some residents $200 a year to cover the cost of the spillway repairs.
Pruetting said they had determined since the May 2 meeting that Gardner Lake had 207 docks and residents with docks paid a $40 fee.
“City Council determines the fees,” he said. “We could potentially raise the fees.”
Pruetting said he wanted to know what the city was trying to recover and if they wanted them to explore further because there were a number of finance options.
“It depends on the appetite to recover costs for the Spillway,” he said.
Pruetting said eventually they will have to address the dredging issue with the lake.
Todd Winters, mayor, said he would like to figure out what was next for the future.
Kacy Deaton, council member, said she would like to explore further because several people had been delinquent on their dock fees.
“What do we do if they continue to be delinquent,” she said. “We just knock down their docks.”
Pruetting said Covid had contributed to delinquent dock fees but it was a misdemeanor offense and the city had the authority to remove a dock.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, said they have other code provisions including abatements and making assessments against a property.
Shute said could the city manage a seperate item as a Maintenance Assessment Fee versus a dock fee.
Pruetting said the city didn’t have the authority and the other problem was not every resident at the lake had a dock.
Baldwin said he suggested making a development agreement with the Lake Association to purchase the property from the city and spread a fee for all members to recoup Spillway reconstruction expenses over two to five years.
Shute said the association manages the deeds and fees.
“I understand the lake needs managed and there is no such thing as a free lunch,” he said. “They haven’t been maintaining it.”
Shute said the city needs to have a relationship with the Lake Association and not just assess residents with docks.
Pruetting said what level and kind of partnership did the city want to have with the association.
Deaton said she thought it was important to have a conversation and get the association involved.
Winters said it sounded like everyone was interested in a level of conversation with the association and the consensus was to move forward.
Roberts said she liked the idea of investigating and working the association.
“Increasing the dock fee wouldn’t do anything,” she said.
Baldwin said a dock fee would be backdooring the problem and create an uphill battle to collect funds.

Fourth of July fireworks
Todd Winters, mayor, said he had been researching the fireworks issue for the city in regards to pets and people with sensory and PTSD sensitivities.
He said he would suggest a trial run starting with a calming product he had found for pets.
“It’d be kind of a compromise,” he said.
Winters said they would offer the first 50 pet owners a calming pet treat for $6 a household at $2 per serving.
He said for people the city could maybe purchase 20 calming kits they could loan out.
Shute said if it was helping sensory sensitive people he was willing to do a loan program using the firework tent fees the city receives.
Deaton said she had concerns with the city dispensing pet medication because of possible allergic reactions and liability issues.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, said he would work with Amy Nasta, deputy city administrator, but when he had reviewed the issue in March he hadn’t found an exception that gave the city clear immunity if they dispensed medication.
“We could face financial exposure if we are buying and dispensing and there is a reaction,” he said.
Denk said he wasn’t terribly concerned about the potential exposure.
Baldwin said he would like to find out first how many resident would use the city service and suggested the city issue a city-wide survey for feedback.