Archive for Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kansas Court of Appeals rules in favor of property owners; development of Lecompton turnpike area now in question

October 4, 2011


Property owners in northwest Douglas County have won a key legal ruling that could put a damper on large-scale industrial development in the area near the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike.

The Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday issued a ruling that reverses previous actions by the Douglas County Commission and the Lawrence City Commission to annex 155 acres of well-situated land into the city and rezone it for industrial uses.

A Douglas County District Court judge previously had ruled in favor of the city and the county, but on Friday the Kansas Court of Appeals found that the county had not done enough to protect the interests of rural property owners in the matter.

The ruling found that the Douglas County Commission did not adequately consider whether the city’s annexation of the property, which is just north of the Lecompton interchange, would “hinder or prevent the proper growth and development of the area.”

“We do not substitute our judgment for the Board (of County Commissioners), but rather, with all due respect, the Board failed to perform its function under the law,” the court wrote in its opinion.

The ruling throws into question whether the area is destined to become the next location for industrial parks, distribution centers and other job producers that want easy access to Interstate 70, which also is the Kansas Turnpike in this area.

The city or the county could petition the Kansas Supreme Court to review the issue, although it is under no obligation to hear the case. Attorneys with both the city and the county said Monday they were still reviewing the ruling and no decision had been made on whether to appeal.

The ruling, though, does not prohibit industrial development from occurring in the area. Instead, it said Douglas County commissioners did not go through the right process in determining whether certain industrial uses would have harmed the area. County commissioners could choose to restart the process.

County commissioners took a vote in 2008 that cleared the way for the city to annex the property. None of the three commissioners remain on the County Commission. Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney voted for the annexation issue, while Commissioner Charles Jones opposed it.

Lawrence attorney Ronald Schneider, who represented the group of neighbors in the lawsuit, said his clients were pleased that the court found rural residents deserved more protection in the matter.

When the issue was being heard in 2008, developers of the property, a group led by Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada, could not identify what type of industrial users eventually would locate on the property. Instead, the request was to approve a wide range of industrial uses, including some of the heaviest of industrial operations.

“Basically, as long as it was legal and it was industrial, it could be done on that property,” Schneider said. “That’s a pretty scary concept if you have property right next door to it.”

Economic development leaders have said sites near the Lecompton interchange are some of the more promising locations the county has to offer industrial users, especially distribution centers that want easy access to the highway.

Two other pieces of property may end up being impacted by Friday’s ruling. A smaller piece of land just east of the interchange already has been annexed and rezoned, but a lawsuit has been filed that makes many of the same arguments that were ruled upon in Friday’s decision. A second piece of property east of the interchange also is in the annexation process. It also is the subject of a similar lawsuit.

An industrial site west of the interchange, however, has not been caught up in the legal proceedings. Berry Plastics currently is building a new warehouse and printing facility on the property. That site has not faced the same legal hurdles because it was not annexed into the city limits.

The 155-acres north of the interchange currently is owned by Russell and Penny Tuckel, who bought the land in a court-ordered auction after their business partnership with the Schwadas was dissolved. Russell Tuckel said they are still very interested in developing the property for industrial uses, and they expect the city and county to take action to preserve its standing as being part of the city limits.

“There are going to be tons of trucks running by the site already because of the Berry Plastics development,” Tuckel said. “All this is kind of silly given that development. But as far as we are concerned, the property was annexed and rezoned when we bought it, and that’s what we expect it to have in the future.”


GSR1855 6 years, 8 months ago

The neighbors are not against development and jobs. The neighbors are against island annexation. They are against the City and/or the developers not working with them to find the right mix that is a win/win for all. There can be jobs added through development in this area without annexation and without the speculative hard core industrial zoning classification. Berry Plastics is a good example. Berry met with the neighborhood group. Did not ask for the heavy industrial zoning. Did not need to be annexed into the city. The neighborhood group did not oppose this and was glad to see this project and these jobs brought to the area. Remember this area is rural, despite the access to I-70. There is no rail and in today's financial environment, who can afford to build out industrial level sewer and water based on speculation? It will only be able to attract a small/specific set of opportunities. What makes this area attractive is it is not in the backdoor of the city residents, so they don't care what happens out there. Which is exactly why the county neighbors have to make sure their voice of concern/reason is heard.

Jenny Morgison 6 years, 8 months ago

Is there ever a project completed without a law suit these days. Right or Wrong, just wondering. How are these law suits established, I would assume that there is not a home owners association in the country. How does this come about?

jhawk_36 6 years, 8 months ago

the other thing is the land that berry plastics is being built on has only a few close nabors as were the other property is has a houing development that has been there for over 20yrs. and people that were born and raised on land next to it and have lived there for more than 50 yrs and then there is availibliity of useable water that can only be delivered by the city of lawrence then they will have to have sewer service go back to lawrence. and who is going to pay that cost to have the service lines put in? most of that area address is in lecompton not a lawrence address...

homergoodtimes 6 years, 8 months ago

The people funding this lawsuit are: Jim Haines (retired CEO Westar), Cynthia Haines (gardener, movie critic), Marguerite Ermeling (veterinarian, Gentle Care Animal Hospital), Jim Baggett (Mass Street Music Store), Dave Ross (retired truck driver). None of which are life long rural residence, these folks have all moved into this area within the past ten years or less. Nimbys

GSR1855 6 years, 8 months ago

There is a country homeowners association called the Scenic Riverway Association, who are a part of this lawsuit/appeal. The association is 145 members strong and represents generations of homesteading next to the 155 acres. The folks you refer to above have had their farms for a minimum of 20 years and all have a great deal invested in the Lawrence area.

hipper_than_hip 6 years, 8 months ago

You're mistaken about Ross, Ermeling, and Baggett: they've all lived in their present homes for over 15 years.

homergoodtimes 6 years, 8 months ago

Ermeling and Baggett built a new house less then ten years ago

hipper_than_hip 6 years, 8 months ago

They've been living on the same property for over 15 years. New house or old house - does it matter?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Who has been funding the elections of city and county commissioners?

Perhaps a group led by Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada? and others of similar development background? Perhaps a few bankers?

This group led by Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada, How long has this group lived as actual rural residents?

Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada spend more time living in Florida so I hear. Again I hear they are not the only ones.....

"This group could not identify what type of industrial users eventually would locate on the property. Instead, the request was to approve a wide range of industrial uses, including some of the heaviest of industrial operations. " Pollution Pollution Pollution!!!

All taxpayers have an interest aka stakeholders due to tax dollar incentives and perhaps other means by which taxpayers are forced subsidize profiteers:

  • building new and wider roads
  • building schools on the fringe
  • extending sewer and water lines to not necessary developments
  • extending emergency services to the fringe
  • direct pay-outs to developers
  • etc etc etc

homergoodtimes 6 years, 8 months ago

Cynthia Haines moved to Lawrence in March 2003 with her husband, Jim, who was named president and chief executive officer of Topeka-based Westar Energy. Cynthia Haines says she spends a lot of time commuting to her job in Texas.

Seem like real homesteaders, neither worked here nor lived here before 2003.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

It's all about the quality of life for existing property owners and how it might impact their taxes and my taxes.

Existing property owners got their first!!!

Taxpayers and Lawrence do not need this for their is no demand. The demand is an illusion constantly be delivered by way of our Chamber of Commerce.

Here is the hard evidence: "could not identify what type of industrial users eventually would locate on the property. Instead, the request was to approve a wide range of industrial uses, including some of the heaviest of industrial operations. "

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

"their" and "there" are not interchangable. Or is that one of the demands of the Occupy Wall Street dudes?

Wadde 6 years, 8 months ago

Another ignorant move) that is why we have no economic development because property owners can't develop themselves and so will the whole community "its the oxen leading the pasture stupidity" since the late 50's no wonder Lawrence has the worst economic and social development since (1890) The Counties are behind 200 years.Agriculture is in the black due to lack of grain shortage due to automotive developments in domestic fuels.

historynut 6 years, 8 months ago

This whole thing has been a "square peg, round hole" from the very beginning. People moved out to this area to get away from the city, whether they have lived there for 50 years or 5 years. It doesn't really matter, they were there first and industry is not a good fit. The city commission made a decision to annex and re-zone this property that impacts people who cannot vote those same commissioners in or out office. How fair is that? And doesn’t anyone worry that the developers that pushed for this annexation might turn around and sue the city for not providing them city water and sewage? That land would be part of the city, wouldn’t it?

And let's be realistic, industrial development? If the City and County are REALLY serious about industrial development, then stick with the Horizon 2020 plan that has already set aside acreage for industrial development that makes sense. Or put in the East Lawrence traffic way that was proposed 15 plus years ago that connects I-70 and K10 east of Lawrence. Then you have an industrial corridor that gives access to I-70, K10 and rail, moves some of the truck traffic off the south traffic way and truck traffic going through the city. And expands the East Hills business park, where industry has already been established in a low/to no housing development area. Yes, it would be expensive, but wouldn’t the tax dollars be better spent on a long term project like this to provide industrial growth that would benefit many city and county residences for generations to come. Rather than spending tax dollars to provide city utilities over or under I-70 for the owners of 155 acres. Sounds short sighted.

homergoodtimes 6 years, 8 months ago

Historynut, your handle is half right, the “nut” half.

homergoodtimes 6 years, 8 months ago

Historynut said, “People moved out to this area to get away from the city, whether they have lived there for 50 years or 5 years. It doesn't really matter, they were there first and industry is not a good fit.”

Historynut are you saying those who got there first have the right to tell others that came after them what they can or can’t do with their property.

historynut 6 years, 8 months ago

So if someone moves in next door to you, it's OK if they raise pigs on their property? You would be OK with that?

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