Baldwin Baldwin leaders are working on a plan to deal with the growth they know is coming.
"Hey Ralph," Baldwin City Administrator Larry Paine says as he waves to a man across the street on a recent morning. "Beautiful day."
Standing at the corner of Seventh and High in downtown Baldwin, Paine likes what he sees.
All the storefronts but one are filled.
A new firehouse shelters a new red fire truck.
The quaint brick streets lead to quaint neighborhoods with maple trees and no curbs or gutters.
The newly landscaped Baker University campus is within sight.
And people wave and greet each other as they go about their business.
This is Baldwin.
But drive through one of Baldwin's newer neighborhoods and it could be confused with a street in western Lawrence or Overland Park or Tulsa, Okla. Pastel-colored homes with attached garages loom over treeless lots.
Likewise, the new Taco Bell and Pizza Hut on U.S. Highway 56 on the north side of the city could be anywhere.
Baldwin is at a crossroads, trying to decide what kind of city it will be and how it will pay to get there.
These are questions the city hasn't asked in the past, Paine said.
"The council is very concerned about growth changing the community, but we don't have a specific plan," he said. "We've kind of said to ourselves, 'We haven't had that much development. It won't happen to us.'"
Growth is on the way
But it is happening to them.
With about 900 existing homes, developers have platted 225 more that could be built within the next five years.
Myrna Fordemwalt, an agent with Stephens Real Estate in Baldwin, said the town is drawing a mix of people, some who have sold farms, some retirees, and more and more commuters looking for the "friendliness or cleanliness" of small-town life.
The newcomers please Baldwin Mayor Stan Krysztof.
"I'm an optimist," he said. "I will always favor growth over nongrowth."
But the kind of growth that seems to be on the way could stretch city resources past the breaking point.
The city already has struggled to keep up with the installation of electric lines to new developments under way.
So this summer, the city council passed an ordinance requiring developers to install their own electrical infrastructure.
Krysztof said other changes should follow.
"Growth will be determined by what the city, in the way of city council and mayor, does to let it go wild or control it," Krysztof said. "It needs to be controlled."
The price of progress
On Monday, the city council will discuss the possibility of impact fees, which would be charged to new developments to help pay for improvements to the city's water, sewer and electrical systems.
"We're typically getting to the limits of our infrastructure," Paine said.
Paine said the city won't be able to provide many more houses with those services without some major upgrades.
And Paine wants the new developments to help pay for those.
"If growth is going to occur here, then the growth will be funding the additional cost of infrastructure," he said.
The proposal won't draw cheers from the developers, Krysztof said.
"Anybody that you tell that to that's in the business will always scream and holler," he said. "That's a natural first reaction. After they get done screaming and you get to talking about it, it's not so bad."
Krysztof has other ideas.
He'd like minimum lot size requirements to limit low-end developments on "postage stamp" lots.
He'd like to require sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
And he'd like more trees and a quota for park land: one acre for every 50 houses.
"We're pushing for a little more in a development," Krysztof said. "It doesn't have to be exorbitant."
Krysztof is not worried such requirements will stop the growth.
He said the nearness of Interstate 35 and planned improvements to U.S. Highway 59 will keep that from happening.
"You are going to have growth," he said. "It may be a way to control it and control the pace of it to a degree."
-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.