Airport land-use plan update aimed at shaping future of New Century

A plan aimed at helping guide the future of New Century AirCenter by determining the best use of land within one mile of the airport was unveiled to local residents Tuesday night at the Gardner Justice Center.

The casual, comeand- go style informational session offered a chance for locals to ask specific questions of Johnson County planners and airport consultants while learning more about the purpose behind updating the airport’s comprehensive land-use compatibility plan. The last plan was developed in 1996.

Michelle Kriks,a planner with Johnson County Planning, Housing and Community Development, explained that once adopted, the updates – one for New Century and another for Johnson County Executive Airport – will be used to not only determine the best use of the land, but also prevent any development that could adversely affect those neighboring airports. Each plan focuses on land use outside the airport boundary. When a new development is proposed to city planners for instance in Gardner, Overland Park or Olathe, city staffers and officials are responsible for carefully reviewing the plans and approving projects based on whether they meet municipal codes and regulations. The next step, Kriks said, is determining whether the proposed development is compatible with the airport. A multipurpose review considers issues such as noise conflicts or structure height, which could reduce airspace.

“We don’t want to have a use that’s a wildlife attractant,” she said. “Something with a lot of water will attract water fowl. A goose is big. A goose can do serious damage to aircraft. That becomes a hazard, so we want to look at that. We look at uses that could create glare or smoke or steam, limiting pilot visibility. We make a recommendation to the airport commission, and the commission then makes a recommendation to the board of county commissioners that’s all based on land-use compatibility.”

While the plan considers land-use compatibility, it is not a specific development plan, designating specific land uses for certain parcels of land. Officials said the plan is intended to promote compatible development near the airport and does not change existing incompatible uses.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the last landuse plan was developed for an area that has changed dramatically over time. Kriks says it’s time for a refresh.

“We need to make a change, so we have a planning advisory committee established to help the county update the plan,” she said. “The committee includes planning, the airport commission, the City of Gardner, the City of Olathe and the City of Overland Park. We’ve invited the tower managers and we also have a county commissioner. There’s about 11 people, and they’re coming at it from all different perspectives, and it’s fantastic that we’re getting so much perspective on different points of view for this process.”

“This is why it’s so important to work with the cities as well because they will take a look at their comprehensive plan annually, and if changes aren’t needed they won’t be. We just need to make sure that we’re staying consistent and we’re keeping that lines of communication open. The landscape around the airport within Gardner, eastern Gardner, western/southwest Olathe, that landscape has really changed significantly, and it’s well past time to update. We’re very fortunate we do have participation from Gardner, Olathe and Overland Park with this process. They’ve been providing some great feedback.

“We’re getting that point of view from the cities for what their policies are, what their drivers are for growth. Then we have the airport commission, and they’re going to come at it from this direction to make sure we’re protecting our airport, and we’re keeping its operations viable and strong. So definitely, we have different viewpoints, different ideas, different thoughts.”

Public workshops were conducted in October, when officials began working on the updated plan. Tuesday’s was similar, giving the public an introductory look at what has been developed so far. Another round public workshops will be planned in the coming months.

“We are hosting public workshops so the public is informed,” Kriks said. “We’re staying transparent so people can come, see and ask questions, and we’re thrilled at the turnout we’re having. No policies are being set yet. We still don’t have enough information. We’ve just heard from our planning advisory committee, and we’ve heard from some developers interested in develop-ing right around the airport. We wanted to get their perspective. We’re just kind of still in that piece of it. Hopefully, when we come back for our third, we might have some draft policies, some draft ideas and then we’ll make it available to the public to take a look at and get feedback on it.”

Kriks said she anticipates the process taking 13-15 months. Formal adoption could come by the end of the year.

A final meeting, this one for Johnson County Executive Airport, is planned from 6-8 p.m. today (Feb. 7) at the KCAC Aviation Hangar, located at 15321 Pflumm Road in Olathe.

For more information, contact Johnson County Planning at 913-715-2209, or by email at planner@jocogov. org. Information is also available on the county planning department’s website.