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For the first time in several years, an overflow crowd attended the Eudora City Council meeting on Monday evening. The majority were in attendance to oppose a text amendment that would allow for non residential buildings in residential areas to be used for business purposes other than retail-commercial or industrial.
The issue came about when Readiness Rounds, a hospital software company that has been based in Eudora for several years, went looking for a place to expand their offices. Readiness Rounds is currently located at 10th & Locust Streets. The only building in Eudora that Readiness Rounds has identified as large enough to fit their needs for the coming years and is suitable for those needs is the Old Baptist Church at 11th and Main Streets. The church is surrounded by single family residences. Readiness Rounds currently has approximately 15 employees in Eudora with another eight working in sales nationally and internationally. The current expectations of Readiness Rounds are to add another 30 staff members with 20 of those located in the Eudora office over the next five years.
Neighbors in the area of 11th and Main have been out in force to oppose this measure. The Planning Commission has had this amendment presented to them twice in the last two months and both times, they have recommended that the City Council reject the amendment. At the City Council meeting on Monday, several residents spoke to the Council as to why they did not want to see this amendment approved.
“I think this adaptive reuse will open some doors we won’t be able to close,” nearby resident Adam Lecuyer said. “I don’t want to see a hodgepodge of commercial and residential go together.”
Eudora resident Ward Johnston came out to support the nearby church residents.
“I’d like to see those buildings used for what they are intended for,” Johnston said, referring to the church. “We have buildings downtown that are vacant and have been vacant for a long time. Allowing other buildings to be used for businesses is not going to help them be filled downtown.”
Attorney Adra Burks spoke on behalf of former resident and current land owner Arthur Neis about how traffic and a large number of employees could impact the streets and infrastructure by having a business in a residential neighborhood.
Councilman Kenny Massey disagreed with Burks. Massey stated how he lived at the corner of 11th and Main for nearly five years and the traffic from the office building would never equal what occurred with the Church.
“We routinely had people parked in our yard, up to the point that the grass was dead three feet in and I guarantee you that property will not incur that type of traffic if this business moves in,” Massey said.
While the audience was predominantly filled with those opposed to the amendment, there were some supporters. Pam Staab was one who spoke in favor of allowing reuse of buildings in residential areas.
“I own a couple of properties downtown and one of those properties has been vacant for years; what’s going to happen if the church doesn’t sell, Staab questioned. “The longer that it sits vacant, the more repairs it’s going to need. It’s very difficult to do those repairs when you are not getting any benefit from the property.” Staab also mentioned that once buildings are sitting vacant for a long period of time, it’s harder to sell them because new owners cannot afford to make the necessary repairs.
After an hour of public comments on the issue, the City Council weighed in with their thoughts on the issue.
“We’ve talked about this (amendment) because of the economic benefit,” Councilman John Fiore said. “We’ve got an ambitious parks and rec plan and an ambitious trails plan and that takes money. This is a good business and good neighbor in town and it’s going to bring good jobs that will help buy the houses that are for sale which will help property values all across town and that helps everybody.”
Councilwoman Ruth Hughs echoed Fiore’s comments.
“We citizens of Eudora are taxed and taxed some more. I don’t know about you but I need some tax relief,” Hughs stated. “How will we ever be able to afford that (referring to future city enhancements), if we cannot attract businesses here to help carry the burden? I can’t be burdened too much further.”
Following the discussion, the City Council voted 3 – 1 to approve the measure. Councilman Bill Whitten was alone in his dissent of the amendment stating that he wanted to follow the recommendation of the Planning Commission. Councilman Tim Reazin was not present at the meeting.
With the passage of the amendment, this is only the beginning of this story. The next step will be up to Readiness Rounds. If Readiness Rounds decides to proceed forward with pursuing the option of moving into the Baptist Church, besides completing a purchase of the building, they will have to have site plans drawn up and file an application for a Use Permitted upon Review (UPUR). Both the site plans and the UPUR begin with the Planning Commission.
Readiness Rounds owner Don Death, who was also present at the Council meeting, said that they will have to evaluate if they wish to proceed forward with the idea.
“The question is: Do you want to go in a place where people don’t want you,” Death said. “I don’t know if the answer is yes or no.”
Death stated that he is cognizant of the resident’s reservations with the use of the building and if his company chooses to proceed forward, he will study the situation carefully and try to work towards a solution.
“I think the residents have some valid concerns,” Death said. “I would too if I lived in that area.”