City considers rezoning requests

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

When they met this week, Leavenworth city commissioners advanced ordinances for rezoning two properties in the city.

One property is the planned site for a Culver’s restaurant as well as other commercial development. The other property is the former Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital, which is now owned by the county government.

No formal action was taken on the ordinances during Tuesday’s meeting. Commissioners reached a consensus to advance each ordinance for a final vote during a future meeting.

One ordinance, if approved, would rezone 11.8 acres at 5136 Lakeview Drive from a medium single family residential district to a general business district.

The property is located at Lakeview Drive and Eisenhower Road.

Mark Schuler, who already owns Culver’s restaurants in Platte City, Missouri, and Lawrence, plans to open a restaurant on a portion of the 11.8-acre property.

He said the property provides the opportunity for the restaurant and additional economic development.

Julie Hurley, director of planning and community development for the city, said a protest petition against the rezoning of the property was submitted to the city.

But she said the people who signed the petition do not represent a sufficient percentage of the neighboring land to require a super majority vote by the City Commission to approve the ordinance.

Attorney Mike Crow spoke during the meeting on behalf of owners of land that is adjacent to 5136 Lakeview Drive.

He said the property that is under consideration for rezoning is actually three tracts of land including a four-acre tract to the north of the proposed site of the Culver’s restaurant.

Crow said his clients do not object to a Culver’s restaurant being located along Eisenhower Road.

“It would be a welcomed addition to our city, and we would like to see it put in,” Crow said.

But he argued the four-acre tract to the north does not need to be rezoned. He said this four-acre tract is best suited for residential use.

Crow also argued there is a binding agreement between former property owners that indicates the four-acre tract is supposed to be used for residential development.

Gloria Mercer, who is one of the current owners of the property at 5136 Lakeview Drive, said the 1949 agreement indicates the four-acre tract cannot be subdivided, but the agreement does not prevent it from being rezoned.

City Attorney David Waters said he does not believe the law requires commissioners to consider the 11.8 acres as three tracts of land. He said the property is one tax parcel.

Waters said the agreement mentioned by Crow may be binding, but that is not a determination for the commissioners.

“That is a private agreement between private parties,” he said.

He said an agreement between private landowners can be enforced in court.

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners accepted a dedication of land for public purposes as part of a final plat for the 11.8-acre property, which is being called Eisenhower Marketplace. The land dedicated for public purposes is for public utility easements.

Commissioners also are considering the rezoning of the former Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital property, 711 Marshall St., from a high-density family residential district to a general business district.

The hospital closed in October and the property was donated to the county government.

County officials have expressed plans to move the Council on Aging and possibly other county offices to the site.

The Board of County Commissioners also has entered into a lease agreement with Signature Behavioral Hospital Operations. The company will use a portion of the first floor and entire third floor of the old Cushing building for a for-profit psychiatric hospital. The agreement also gives the company right of first refusal for leasing the fourth floor.

Signature Behavioral Hospital Operations’ parent company is CenterPointe Behavioral Health System, Brentwood, Tennessee.

A representative of the board for the Leavenworth County Historical Society sent a letter to the city, asking for the rezoning request to be denied.

The Historical Society owns the Carroll Mansion Museum, which is a neighboring property of the former Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital building.

The letter expressed concern that the new zoning designation would allow the former hospital property to be used for a variety of commercial purposes in the future.

No one from the Historical Society spoke in opposition to the rezoning during Tuesday’s meeting.

Mayor Pro-Tem Camalla Leonhard noted she is employed by the Council on Aging.

Leonhard said she consulted with the city attorney and she does not have to recuse herself as long as she discloses that she is a county employee.

In other business

The Leavenworth City Commission:

• Approved a sole source bid from Safe Fleet Coban Mobile Vision in the amount of $26,395 for the replacement of four in-car camera systems for the Leavenworth Police Department.

• Approved an agreement with the Kansas Department of Corrections concerning planned improvements to Fourth Street.

• Reached a consensus to advance an ordinance for a special use permit for a child care center at 2137 Birch St.

The ordinance will come back to commissioners during a future meeting for a final vote.