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The city officials of Eudora need to wake up. I have spent countless meetings listening to officials from various branches of our city government including the City Council, the Planning Commission and conversations with city officials about the codes in Eudora.
The one thing I hear about from many people in this town, particularly business owners, is that the codes in Eudora are so restrictive that businesses don’t want to locate here or in a few cases want to stay here. This has been echoed in the comment section of this website on many of the stories. City officials need to realize that, because of the code restrictions currently in place and more getting placed seemingly at every month, it is turning businesses away. While these idea behind these codes are to make the town “look pretty” (read that Johnson County-ish or Lawrence-ian), it hinders economic development.
This was pointed out very plainly at the Planning Commission meeting held this past Wednesday night. Java to Go, one of the newer businesses in town opened up on a temporary permit because of the sign moratorium that was in place earlier this year. With that moratorium in place, the building, because of its design, could not have opened without a temporary permit. Now that the moratorium has been lifted, the building can obtain what is called a Use Permitted Upon Review (UPUR) permit. Without a long explanation of the permit, this is basically what any new business needs to open their doors.
Java to Go, located in the C & S Market parking lot is owned by Erica Spurling, Spurling and her husband appeared before the Planning Commission to obtain this permit. This was a rather interesting situation since Spurling is herself a newly seated Planning Commission member. She recused herself from the Commission during this discussion due to the conflict of interest and joined her husband to support the application. Several Planning Commissioners balked at multiple issues about the current property including the fact the power of the 8 x 8 building is above ground, not below ground, lack of enough directional signage for cars using the drive up window and the setback from the street. The Commission did vote 4-1 to allow the UPUR so Spurling could continue to operate the business, but, for a time, the permit was in doubt. Had the permit not been allowed, the business likely would have shut down or be moved. This is only one example.
Kaw Valley Bank is planning on building an ATM near the corner of 14th & Church Street. This will be a drive through location containing only the ATM. There will be no other banking facilities here at least in the short term. To get the permit to build the ATM at this location, Jim Hoover, owner of Kaw Valley Bank, had to jump through several hoops to satisfy the Planning Commission with such things as enough shrubs, posts and curbing so that people wouldn’t drive through the grass instead of using the concrete pavement that will be placed to get to the ATM. The requirement of sidewalks was also discussed as possibly necessary to obtain the permit, but that eventually was not required. (It’s a drive up facility only. Why do you need to worry about sidewalks for something that is going to be redesigned and likely rebuilt in a couple of years when the bank does hopefully expand?) Again, the permit passed, but it was rather questionable as to if it would be approved.
The types of code issues are not isolated to the Planning Commission. You can refer to our story of last week about the City Council not allowing Jay Wilson to keep his quail and what hoops and, ultimately, losses he has experienced to try to keep his birds. These are all very recent examples, and are only a few examples, of codes and code issues that come up routinely. They have come up routinely for several years now.
The City recently hired Collin Bielser in the newly created position Economic Development Director. They also have a very qualified individual in Susie Pryor leading the charge as head of the Chamber of Commerce. How can these two do their jobs effectively if businesses are put off by going through largely unnecessary, costly and bothersome mountains of regulations?
In response to some of my questions in the past about codes and their restrictiveness, the following statement has been made to me by city officials, “Well, you have to have regulations otherwise you’ll have complete chaos.” I agree 100% with that statement. You don’t want someone throwing up a glorified cardboard box on the street downtown and calling it a building and opening a business in it. You do not want some shoddily built strip mall every two blocks, nor an inflatable ape in front of every store. At that same time, saying that you can’t have this sign because it hangs six inches to far over the sidewalk or your building has to be in an less preferred location “because that’s the rules, that’s the plan we put together” is detrimental to business that want to locate in Eudora.
In defense of the City Council and Planning Commission, the permits were issued for the establishments shown here as examples. We also understand that a possible ordinance change about allowing birds is going to be discussed at the next City Council meeting. These groups are not just denying everything requested or applied for. With that said, giving business and citizens the feeling they need a lawyer and/or jump through so many hoops and spend more money than originally planned to get a permit issued or ordinance varied, turns people off to wanting to conduct business or even live here.
Businesses are the lifeblood of this town and a major source of the tax base. We need some type of larger company to invest in our community and employ our citizens if you expect people to live here. Without businesses, large and small, the residents of Eudora will end up paying such a huge amount in property taxes, they cannot afford to live in the city anymore.
The bodies that govern our city need to realize this is not Overland Park, Lawrence or Lenexa. We are a small town and not a suburb. You need to think about the businesses that are trying to earn a meager income and, believe it or not, help our community grow.
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