When they met Wednesday, Leavenworth County commissioners approved a request to rezone property that has been identified as a future site for foster care homes.

When they met Wednesday, Leavenworth County commissioners approved a request to rezone property that has been identified as a future site for foster care homes.

Commissioners approved the rezoning request for the property located at 12400 170th St. by a vote of 4-1.

Commissioner Chad Schimke said he objected to additional conditions that were added by the County Commission. Schimke said he would have voted to approve the zoning change with only the conditions that had been recommended by staff from the Planning and Zoning Department.

A nonprofit organization named Joy Meadows requested to have the zoning changed from a rural residential zone with a minimum parcel size of 2.5 acres to what is known as a planned unit development.

Officials with the nonprofit organization plan to build single-family homes on the property, which is about 24 acres. The homes would house families with foster children. The site also would include a park, garden and equestrian ring.

The proposal has faced opposition. A valid protest petition against the zoning change was submitted to the county government.

Members of the county’s Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend the rezoning be denied.

“The Planning Commission raised some concerns,” Krystal Voth told county commissioners Wednesday. “The applicant has addressed those concerns.”

Voth is the deputy director of the Leavenworth County Planning and Zoning Department.

County Commissioner Vicky Kaaz read a statement during Wednesday’s meeting in which she stated people opposed to the Joy Meadows proposal had come under attack on social media and in news reports.

Kaaz said she had viewed a video of a Sept. 11 Planning Commission meeting in which people opposed to the proposal had voiced concerns. She said the meeting had been civil and respectful.

Kaaz asked that regardless of what decision was made, “please do not let kindness and truth leave you.”

County Commissioner Mike Stieben asked audience members to keep their comments focused on zoning issues.

Justin Oberndorfer, who spoke on behalf of Joy Meadows, argued there is a foster care crisis in Kansas. He said there are about 7,700 children in foster care in the state and only about 2,900 foster homes.

“I know this has become very political,”” he said of the Joy Meadows proposal. “It has become very loud.”

He said Joy Meadows has never gone negative in regards to people who oppose the proposal. He said the organization cannot control what others do.

His comments came during a public hearing on the issue.

During the public hearing, commissioners heard from supporters and opponents of the proposal.

Charles Graham, who was among those opposed, said he thought the rezoning request was premature because at this point it was based on promises.

He suggested denying the request until Joy Meadows was ready to begin construction of the first new home on the property.

Graham also argued that a zoning change could prove to be a disaster because a future owner could build far more homes on the property than what was proposed by Joy Meadows.

During the discussion about the proposal, Senior County Counselor David Van Parys was asked if homes built on the property would be exempt from property taxes.

Van Parys said the nonprofit Joy Meadows could apply for a tax exemption.

Stieben asked whether it would be a violation of the law to take into account the tax exempt status when considering the rezoning request.

Van Parys said he was not aware of any previous situation in which that was a consideration.

Jeff Joseph, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, said the rezoning request is the first in a series of steps for the proposal. He said the property also would have to go through a platting process. And building permits would have to be issued for the construction of homes.

“So there’s a lot steps,” he said.

Stieben made a motion to approve the zoning change with additional conditions. The conditions he proposed included limiting the number of homes on the property to seven. He said initially only four homes would be allowed. But the number could increase after a review in five years.

Officials with Joy Meadows had proposed building up to 10 homes on the property.

Stieben also proposed conditions related to a private road on the property.

Stieben’s motion was approved.

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