By Mike Olson, Mayor, City of Lake Quivira
“Cities are not in the business of giving away land.” “No elected official in Wyandotte County is going to risk political capital to support giving away land without a commitment for development.”
These are the responses I received ten years ago, when, as a city councilman, I suggested the City of Lake Quivira annex the property currently known as The Meadows. For years, I accepted this position. After all, why would the second largest city in Kansas simply hand over land to Lake Quivira? Here’s the story. . .
Once upon a time there was a 61-acre tract of land owned by the Robertson family. Quivira Lane divided the property. For decades, the hay field on the west side was a magnet for stray golf balls shot from the number seven tee box, while the larger piece on the east side was left in a natural state. On numerous occasions, Quivira Incorporated (Q Inc.) tried to purchase the property in order to control any development which might negatively affect the golf course.
In addition to being split by Quivira Lane, the Robertson property had another unique feature. The west side was in the City of Lake Quivira; the east side in Kansas City, Kansas (KCK). Consequentially, any plan to develop the property would require approval from both cities.
After years of negotiations, the Robertsons sold the property to a developer rather than to Q Inc. The developer, who happened to be a Lake Quivira member, brought in a local real estate agent and presented a plan to develop housing on both sides of the property. The plan required that the entire 61 acres be included in the gated community. In response to resistance from the community, the real estate agent threatened to construct high-density housing on the KCK side, stating, “If you (Lake Quivira members) don’t approve the plan, we’ll start turning dirt in KCK in thirty days.”
The dirt never turned, but the landowner/developer did file a lawsuit against the City of Lake Quivira, the Mayor, Q Inc., and the President of the Board of Directors, alleging collusion between the City of Lake Quivira and Q Inc.
In 2007, the landowner/developer proposed a second plan, combining the two sides of the property by eliminating Quivira Lane from 78th Street to Holliday Drive. The development was to include over 100 homes and private amenities for the homeowners in this area. A big piece of the puzzle hinged on the ability of the City of Lake Quivira to annex the property from KCK. Some people believed that KCK would consider de-annexing the property, but only if there was a development plan in place. Additionally, it was rumored that de-annexation would be withheld until development was completed.
The landowner/developer promoted the plan throughout the community and ultimately presented it to the City Council, where it was defeated 4 to 1. Given the economic crash of 2008, it is hard to project what would have occurred had the development been approved.
Discussion about the property was quiet until 2012, when the landowner brought in a prominent Kansas City developer as a new partner to present a third plan. Once again, the plan failed to gain support from the community.
Finally, after years of legal battles and uncertainty, the lawsuit was settled, and the property was sold to Q Inc., thanks to the efforts of a small group of passionate Quivira members known as the Patient Quivirans. The group helped broker the deal and finance the purchase.
Q Inc. became the owner of the 61 acres and named it The Meadows. Not long after, Q Inc. purchased the Siler property, a 12-acre tract to the south of The Meadows. As you might recall, a few years ago, the Strategic Planning Committee considered development of the Siler property. Once again, there was concern over the fact that it was located in KCK.
This is where the story gets even more interesting. About eighteen months ago, I decided to pursue annexation of the Siler property, the east side of The Meadows, and a small 5-acre tract on the north side of Holliday Drive. These properties were owned by Q Inc. but in KCK.
At a monthly Johnson County and Wyandotte County mayors’ meeting, I jokingly asked KCK Mayor, Mark Holland, “Hey, want to give me some land?” He said, “Sure!” And so the dialog began.
KCK and Wyandotte County each received half of the taxes generated by the properties. But, as long as they were owned by Q Inc. and in KCK, there was little chance of development and thus minimal economic benefit for either. Mayor Holland realized the benefit to Wyandotte County if the properties were in the City of Lake Quivira. KCK would lose a little tax revenue, but the potential upside to Wyandotte County could be significant if there were any sort of development.
Because I wanted the City of Lake Quivira to have complete control of the properties, I insisted the annexation not be contingent on development. Mayor Holland agreed to this.
The annexation process began in the fall of 2016. As expected, it was slow. Over the last several months, Steve Sestak, President of Q Inc.; Erin Lecky, Lake Quivira City Manager; and I sat through many colorful meetings of the Wyandotte County Planning Commission. On June 13, 2017, at 12:30 a.m., the Wyandotte County Planning Commission made a unanimous decision to recommend the petition for de-annexation of the properties. The petition moved forward to the June 29, 2017 meeting of the Wyandotte County Board of Commissioners, who approved it unanimously.
Following the decision, Mayor Holland said, “There are currently seventeen homes in the City of Lake Quivira that are located in Wyandotte County. Without this decision, it was unlikely we would have ever seen the eighteenth. Wyandotte County is delighted to partner with Lake Quivira to promote development in the City of Lake Quivira. Ultimately, the Turner Schools stand to gain the most from any development.”
On July 3, 2017, the Lake Quivira City Council approved an ordinance authorizing the annexation of the land.
I do not know what the future holds for these properties; however, I do know it will be determined by members of our community, and not by a neighboring city. We should all celebrate this!
I would like to thank the Q Inc. Board of Directors; former General Manager, Dennis Nighswonger; Board Presidents, Patrick Pribyl and Steve Sestak; Council Members, Betsy Vossman, Ben Kalny, Brady Lilja, Dave White and Bruce Rimbo; City Manager, Erin Lecky; City Clerk, Diane Newton; and City Attorney, Ellis Rainey. All of these individuals contributed to the successful outcome.
I am incredibly thankful that Kansas City, Kansas is in the business of giving away land and that Mayor Holland was bullish enough on the City of Lake Quivira to risk “political capital” to let this happen.
It’s ours now. Let’s do something great!