Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Stilwell wants to save itself and incorporate

So I've read in the KC Star that Stillwell is working to incorporate itself and about 24 square miles around it in sojoco for fear that OP will gobble them up once they finish feasting on their neighbors.

That would make them larger in land mass than Leawood and would secure the state line south of Leawood to Miami county and West to 69 highway roughly. I guess they want to secure that more rural feel they have.....pretend like they are in Miami county with all the Johnson County benefits. I understand what they all. Unfortunately, I think that ship has sailed for them. They should have worked for their own self preservation decades ago instead of just enjoying the bucolic life of the gentleman farmer with their multi acre plots of land and their 1200 square foot ranch style homes. How quaint and cute. I know that's not all there is my job to overgeneralize. They pushed against the Walmart at 159th. Don't mistake them, they shop at Walmart they just don't want one quite so close to them, in Stilwell. The article said, we don't want strip malls like at 119th and I'm sure if you pressed them they would say 135th and um......well like 151st is becoming too. We want to be close enough to shop there but we don't want them too close.

Funny thing is I hope they get it done. They would have to raise property taxes by a reported 58 mills based on county estimates I read because of the low density to provide the services equal to Spring Hill that they now enjoy from the county provided in part by the rest of us living in joco. That would be $1000 for every 150K in property value. The minimum value has to be closer to 200K and the average probably 300K or more. So the average home might see their property tax go from 3K to 5K a year? Sounds nice. Go for it. People love paying high property taxes.

Then there is the little part of the Kansas law requiring, with good sense, that adjoining cities be asked if they would prefer to annex before allowing another city to be formed. See, it is also about economies of scale. Every little government costs money. Overlapping governments cost even more money. Why do you think there is the Unified Government in Wyandotte County now? The old way was inefficient and cost too much. It has to weighed against being represented locally and maintaining local options and cost. The County government has to see if it makes more sense for someone with an infrastructure already in place can more easily absorb Stilwell's needs and expected growth. You see, if the county didn't expect the area to grow they wouldn't bother to mess with it. Not give you a civics lesson but it really isn't as sinister as OP just wanting to grab land. It might be a little bit about that but not mostly about that. You see as the area south continues to develop the county has to plan for the growth that is inevitable. If you don't plan and prepare you end up with a substandard infrastructure, poor planning, leapfrogging and worse sprawling growth than you could now envision. The county doesn't want to be in that business and they aren't equipped for it. That is why we have cities. So, when growth is inevitable they have to decide how to manage it. I'm sure the county has told the close by cities to begin preparing a plan and probably already thinks OP is the best to handle it. My guess is Leawood doesn't want it.

If they were smart they would have been in a smokey back room at the Stilwell BBQ trying to broker a deal with Peggy Dunn and Leawood to not only annex them but give them the restraint on growth they seek by agreeing in advance to special zoning. Leawood while not wanting be much bigger might be made interested to control the state line further south. But the residents won't work that deal because they want to be Stilwell, not Leawood which will probably end with them being OP who is willing to grow. Oh, does pride go before the fall? Maybe it could have been like naming a ballpark or sports could call them Stilwell of Leawood or like merging companies....rural Stilwood or Leawell. They should have picked their poison.

I'd say let them eat their cake. A city with no recognizable city, just residential areas. If they want to control growth and yet continue to have all the benefits of the Johnson County tax base, the Blue Valley Schools but keep themselves pleasantly rural with super high property taxes and substandard services......maybe it will work for them.

The current annexation battle will be lost by the residents and will become part of the Kingdom of Overland Park and Stilwell will too unless someone can convince Leawood save them against their will.


Steve Inman said...

Yes, you are correct... up to a point. It's true that we don't want a Wal*Mart in Stilwell. And just as you say, we do want "it all". But that's what they call the American dream, isn't it?

Sure, we should have acted when OP grabbed up Stanley a few years ago and taken steps then to save our bucolic lifestyle here in the Stilwell area. But we didn't. Why? I think it's because most of us just want to be left alone... and we naively thought that we would be. But now we see that OP's voracious appetite knows no boundaries (other than an incorporated city in its way), so we have to do whatever we can to protect ourselves from being sucked into the vortex that our neighbors to the northwest recently were. Incorporation is one option.

Do we really want to incorporate our community, raising our taxes and having to provide our own police and fire protection in the process? No, we don't. But it would be better to do that than to become part of Overland Park. And many of us are willing to pay more in taxes to keep that from happening. If that's the decision of the people of Stilwell, who are you to judge us and our motives? Who is Overland Park to force annexation upon us?

You're also right when you state that we don't all live in 1200 square foot ranch style homes. Some of us live in fabulous, sprawling million-dollar homes, and some of us live in more modest homes we built with our own two hands. In some cases those homes stand next door to each other... and neither looks out of place because there is open space between the two. That's part of the allure of this area.

Folks around here are fiercely independent... and we want to remain so. We like being able to raise our kids in an area that's close to nature and far enough removed from the city that we aren't constantly fearful for their safety... and our own.

If I had wanted to live in OP, I would have moved there instead of here 20+ years ago to build my earth-bermed, passive solar home in the woods. But even then, I knew that the odds of getting approval for such an owner-built structure within OP would have been daunting. It was hard enough trying to convince the JoCo codes folks that a layman could build a house that wouldn't come crashing down on top of me, but at least I have the ability to paint it whatever color I wish, including white if I so desired. Could I do that in OP?

And yes, my house is still standing. Not only that, I'll bet I pay a lot less to heat it than you pay to heat yours. Most of my heat comes from the sun... and the firewood I get when I thin the trees on my 8-acre woodlot every fall. The only neighbors I can see from my house are deer, foxes, woodchucks and several hundred wild birds that I feed year-round from my porch. Will that continue to be the case if OP swallows up this area? Not likely. The wildlife will get squeezed out here, just as it has to our north.

Because I'm in a rural area, I have a septic tank, rather than being on a sewer line, and I'm happy about that. It's better for the planet because my household waste gets recycled on-site, providing nutrients for the native and imported flowers that flourish in my back yard. Would I be able to keep my current waste recycling system in OP? What about the compost pile where my kitchen scraps become safe, cost-free and ecologically responsible fertilizer? Think they'll go for that in Overland Park?

Hopefully H.B. 2747 will be passed by the Kansas legislature soon, undoing the annexation-without-representation that OP has recently forced upon the residents of this area without their consent. If that happens, we won't need to go to the extreme measure of incorporation. But if it doesn't, we must be prepared.

Within the context of your article, your mention of the "smokey back room" of the Stilwell Smokehouse seems terribly insensitive. You are aware that it recently suffered major fire damage and is currently closed, right?

We are serious about protecting our area's rural atmosphere. First it was the 20th Century Parkway that was going to rip a highway through our area. We fought that one... and thankfully won. More recently we've been able to get the South Metro Connection downgraded from a four-lane highway to a two-lane extension of 179th Street from Metcalf to State Line.

Yes, we know that there will eventually be strip malls and a McDonald's or two in this area, but we'll fend them off as long as we can. Maybe when gasoline is $10 a gallon it will be easier to accept... but for now, I'm perfectly content to drive into town whenever I have a Big Mac attack.

I would recommend that you watch the first couple of episodes of the current TV series "John Adams" to familiarize yourself with the historical consequences of taxation (and annexation) without representation. Compared to that, incorporation of Stilwell as a city would be a peaceful and welcome alternative to halt further encroachment upon our community, wouldn't you say?

Unlike you, I'm not afraid to state who I am. By the same token, I think it's a misnomer for you to refer to yourself as JOCOeveryman. You're not.

JOCOeveryman said...

Well, make quite a few comments there and I appreciate you taking the time to write them. I don't think I'll comment on all of them but I do see a constant theme running through them and that is emotion.

I can completely understand your emotional response to wanting to protect your way of life. It is hard sometimes to take a look at things from the outside but that is why I wrote my piece on the situation.

I'd like to comment on a couple things that stuck out in my mind.

First, you are NOT being subjected to annexation with representation. You (and I) are represented by the County Commissioners on this issue. They are responsible for the hopefully reasonable and planned out development of the county. OP can't act without their blessing. This is their job to decide who is best equipped to provide services and manage growth in an area that isn't incorporated. As you probably know, you don't even have the opportunity to incorporate unless the County Commissioners think it is in the best interest of ALL of us the county. There are very non-emotional factors that go into decisions like that. Based on the research I've read I don't think they will allow you to incorporate. Everything points to annexation being the prefered way to manage growth not the expansion of more municipalities. Frankly, as I said before, I wish they would let you and that would solve the problem completely because you could provide for yourself. But I'm realistic enough to know that will never happen so if not that then what?? What you mean is that you don't think you should be annexed without your consent. Big difference.

That leads me to my next thought which is that you need to realize that massive growth is headed your way like a storm on the horizion. The County Commissioners aren't set up to handle it and provide services. So, how will you feel when one of your neighbors sells out to a developer who puts in some big development you don't want? Sure, you stated you'll fight it but you'll win a few and lose most. Then we'll end up with bad, unplanned growth and this hopscotching effect. You state that you'd prefer not to incorporate and not have your taxes raised. That would be the price of your lifestyle if they would allow you to do so. You also seemingly concede you will "have a McDonald's and a few strip mall" but you don't seem to realize that it will be lots more than that my friend....way more. You will lose more than you will win. And you want to enjoy all the services I enjoy in Leawood but want us to keep helping you pay for them. See, the development you abhor "up north" creates the tax base for you to have the services you enjoy.

You also seem to have a deep hatred for OP. I feel like I'm giving a government 101 class here but as your developemnt continues the county will decide how to hand your area off to a municipality so they can plan the growth because that isn't the county's primary business. If it isn't OP then they would ask another city to do it. Would you hate Leawood as much if it were us? I'll admit I might be a little naive and uninformed about OP politics. I'm not sure they would lose a single night's sleep if you were successful and incorporated. They would probably be happy not to deal with you.

You mention the American dream and the chance to chase your "want it all" attitude. I'm not sure that is the american dream. I think you are forgetting about the social contract we all accept as Americans and having enlighted self-interest. Google those words if you don't remember them from school. In other words, knowing what is best for everyone in the long run is also best for you.

I said in my blog post that if you were smart you would have run to Leawood and I made a comment about Stilwell BBQ. Nice try but while I wasn't aware of their misfortune the fire hadn't happened before I wrote the original blog. I had eaten there just a day before I typed it so that was lame on your part.

Also, don't talk to me about your septic tank, your firewood, your passive solar house in such a holy way there "green man" as you have to drive your car twice as far as the rest of us to get anything. Don't throw stones friend unless you are also without sin.

Finally, I guess I can't resist your comment watching John Adams on HBO to get a lesson on taxation without representation. Well, Steve, I don't have to watch the movie because I read the book. It was a great book. What a the movie? Why don't you try reading a book sitting in your little earth contact home? And I'll say it I said before, I'm all for you incorporating. Here is my final thought. You should spend your time pressing the County Commision to let you incorporate. That is your best chance but thinking you can keep things the same way is putting your head in the sand. Or like a child who holds his breath until he passes out. It isn't an option you can have that will get you anything. The sooner you figure that out and get the emotion out of it the better luck you will have getting the best outcome.

This was a fun one to respond to so thank you for writing it. I hope you'll check back and read more...and post more. By the way, I understand it might be a little cowardly to not put up my real identity but it gives me certain freedom that is such a great outlet and I love it. Now, you think I'm not the Everyman of JOCO. I bet you'd find my opinions on your annexation throughout the county to be pretty close to the norm just not over in your part of the county so I'd respectfully disagree. Good stuff, keep it coming.

JOCOeveryman said...

As I read my post, perhaps I should clarify for the sake of being accurate. The JOCO commission has to ask if another close by city wants to annex prior to allowing a new municipality to form. While the commission can't make OP not annex you they could apply enough influence to make it happen. That's why I suggest getting close with Surbaugh and company.

Anonymous said...

it is as simple as rights versus responsibilities there Steve. What it took jocoeveryman to say in 10 minutes I'll sum up for you like have to balance your perceived rights with your responsibilities to the greater community. You need to be less selfish and more of a communitarian.