Graphics courtesy of Johnson County

Lynne Hermansen
Johnson County Commissioners approved the construction of a Panda Express in the vicinity of the Gardner Walmart at their Thursday, June 2 commission meeting.
The restaurant will be .08 acres and within one mile of New Century Air Center southwest of East Santa Fe Street and Cedar Niles Road.
The 2,391 square foot restaurant will hold 54 seats for dining. There will also be six 22 foot LED parking light fixtures.
Michelle Kriks, county planner, said it will use 28 parking spaces from the Wal-Mart parking lot and include a drive-thru.
Kriks said it is within the flight corridor of the airport and within the noise impact area.
“Minimizing aircraft noise is not an issue,” she said. “It is also outside the safety area of 56 Highway.”
Kriks said the Gardner Planning Commission and the Airport Commission had approved the plan in February.
Charlotte O’Hara, commissioner, said she had concerns that they continued to have development around the county airports.
“Are you aware of the airplane that made an emergency landing behind a house this week,” she said. “We haven’t been aggressive about protecting airports.”
O’Hara said the restaurant plans meet the policy in place the county holds though.
“Should we be looking at our policy,” she said.
Jay Leipzig, planning director, said they were currently in the process of bringing forward a resolution for a compatibility plan for the county airports that would include several meetings open to the public.
The Panda Express was a major project looked at carefully for land and commercial use by the Airport Commission and was within the flight corridor but outside the protection zone, he said.
“The public had a chance to voice their opinions,” he said.
O’Hara said the continued development was still concerning to her and worried that when a tragedy occurred people would question why the county allowed it to happen.
“99 percent of residents in Gardner have no idea what is on the agenda because they depend on their elected officials,” she said.
Janee Hanzlick, commissioner, said she assumed the compatibility plans were approved through the FAA.
“And we aren’t just making plans in a vacuum,” she said. “My understanding is that they were notified they had to be moved so much distance from the airport.”
Leipzig said Hanzlick was correct.
Hanzlick said the Panda Express was being built in an already existing retail development and why wasn’t it approved at that time.
Durham, county administrator and legal representative for NewCentury Airport, said the portion of the development Panda Express is being built in wasn’t approved as part of the development plan at the time.
She said it met compatibility requirements with airport operations meeting safety, noise, lights and wildlife requirements.
Michael Ashcraft, commissioner, said he wanted to know what the land was currently being used for and the stipulation requirements.
Kriks said the Panda Express is being built in spillover parking from Wal-Mart and a Burger King.
Stipulations require building lights have to be downcast and shielded to prevent upward glare and interference with the airport, she said.