Mayor Ben Lawrence vetoes Special Use Permit for the expansion of Butler Community College

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, Mayor Ben Lawrence issued a veto on Ordinance 1679. This Ordinance was to create a Special Use Permit for the expansion of the Butler Community College campus at 715 East 13th St.

The City Council will be considering the Mayor’s veto at their Sept. 25th, 2018 City Council meeting at 7 p.m. at the Andover City Hall, 1609 E. Central. The Council will have the opportunity to accept or override the veto at the meeting on Tuesday.

When contacted this morning, Mayor Lawrence provided his official explanation on the veto that had been shared with Council members.

"As Mayor of the City of Andover, I hereby veto Ordinance 1679. I offer the following as a summary of my reasoning:

 I have examined all of the minutes and associated comments from the Planning Commission meeting of August 21st, 2018. In conjunction, I have also examined the materials and Ordinance 1276 that was previously approved on August 18th, 2005 that established a previous special use request still in place. I have arrived a several conclusions and recommendations that I wish to share.

 In direct relation to this new request, I want to bring your attention to the Planning Commission Agenda Memo dated June 21st, 2005. You will see in staff comments from the Zoning Administrator to the College that a “fair warning that to expect zoning for expansion beyond the existing building would be frowned on.” The college was advised back then (2005) that there should be no expectation that a new special use request for expansion would be granted in the future. While that comment and sentiment shared by staff and that Council is not necessarily enforceable, I believe the current request is in direct conflict of the City’s maintained position on the issue.

 I believe knowing and understanding some of the history of this issue is important for those of you who were not on the Council at the time. As such, I bring up the original special use case (SU-2005-02) in converting a manufacturing warehouse in an industrial park to classrooms. As some of you may know, I did previously veto that special use request because many of the factors considered by the Planning Commission were in error and more specifically, the college did not take a vote to the general public by way of a bond issue to purchase, convert and equip a new campus. They rather “leased” the building with a minimum buyout circumventing the general public thoughts on the issue. Further, the student union and other amenities that are currently in place there were not in the plan; just a plain industrial building with converted classroom space. We don’t know how the general public would have voted back then but I suspect it would have been unsuccessful. However, through much deliberation the previous Council did eventually override my veto but attached “conditions” to their approval.

 Several of these conditions stipulated in approval of Ordinance 1276 (August 18, 2005) are currently not being adhered to and have not been for some time now. It is my belief that the previous SU-2005-02, ordained by 1276, should have long since been withdrawn or in the minimum, enforced vigorously. I see evidence in our records of staff correspondence with the College’s staff over the ensuing years as to the non-compliance of some provisions included in Ordinance 1276. Many instances of persistent dialogue has corrected some issues but not all of them. The remaining issues are thus: The College had previously agreed to sell the N.E. corner property at Andover Road and 21st; that has not occurred. The College had agreed to notify and provide the City of Andover with its updated 5 and 10 year plans at reasonable intervals; that has not occurred. The College also committed to adding athletic events and games in Andover; that has not occurred, save one football game 12 years ago. Considering the Andover campus has the highest enrollment, over and beyond the home campus in El Dorado, I find this particular odd. It seems and appears the Andover location does nothing more than generate money which can be sent back to El Dorado. I also find it frustrating what we thought was a respected entity, would not honor their word let alone an ordinance of the City of Andover.

 While this previous special use case is not specifically germane in the approval of SU-2018-02, I believe the continued violation of the conditions reveals the content and character of the College attitude to do what they want, when they want and tax what they want, regardless of community opinion and as our Ordinance dictates. I would not expect anything different in this case, should my veto be over-ridden or modified with any additional conditions.

 As to the SU-2018-02 before us now, l believe that the Planning Commission erred by sending a positive recommendation to the City Council to approve this request. I disagree with their conclusions on several factors and findings and my specific reasons are below:

Factor 6: Adequate street access is NOT currently provided. As enrollment has increased through the years, traffic has also increased and the arterial road servicing this property does not meet the peak traffic loads according to engineering standards. The cost to expand and rebuild this road should be shared by the subject property as is the case of many of our other developments. I see no current agreement in place to do so. Additionally, with the addition of Yorktown expansion to the East of the subject property and Commerce street heading West, there is not sufficient Right-of-Way granted. In the minimum a separate agreement should be place before approving this request.

Factor 7: Staff and Planning Commission both concurred that the property will need to be platted. As such they added a provision to the approval that it would need to be completed within the next 12 months. I take issue with the fact that this property has not already been platted. They have had 13 years to plat it but have not done so yet. The Plat is the instrument by which the City can acquire the ROW and dictate terms and costs associated with road construction and put other important agreements in place. An acceptable plat needs to precede this request in the minimum. Without the plat, there is no guarantee of anything and Andover residents may very end up footing the bill for what should be a County-wide issue.

Factor 9: There is in fact, suitable land and buildings available for development and usage if this zoning request is denied. As previously mentioned, the corner of 21st and Andover Road is still owned by the College and could be expanded or remodeled to accommodate the influx of new classrooms needed, should they continue to ignore the provision of the previous ordinance to sell that property.

Factor 11: The property is NOT suitable for the current zoning. I renew my objection of placing a community college is the middle of an industrial park. It is not a compatible use. Further I do not agree that a special use for educational institutions is allowed in our industrial regulations.

Factor 12: Staff and the Planning Commission agreed that the approval of the zoning request would detrimentally affect other property with increased activities and traffic, yet overlooked this factor in approving the case.

Factor 13: Again, although a special use request is available in all zoning classifications I do not agree that the zoning district classification (Industrial) is consistent with an educational facility. What I find particularly confusing is that there is no mention in the minutes or recordings of the Planning Commission meeting of August 21st, 2018 as to which this special use category would fall under in the Industrial regulations. I am left to guess what the Planning Commission has used. If they concluded the special use to fall under the zoning regulations in Section C.5 which states:

 “other uses not otherwise specifically listed as a permitted use or conditional use, but which are keeping with the intent of the Section 4-115 and compatible with the uses permitted in Section 4-115”

 which is my best guess, then I believe they are misinterpreting the regulations. This does not adhere to the spirit or intention of the zoning regulations as an educational facility is specifically allowed in Ag, R-1 and B-1 only. Either way, the recommendation is devoid of this piece of information and should be reviewed for consistency and accuracy.

Factor 14: While the Planning Commission nor staff did not answer this factor yes or no, the request is not in conformance with the comprehensive plan because BCC is not mentioned at all in the comprehensive plan. I see no valid conclusion as to how a new special use request compliments or enhances this plan and should have not been a factor in determining to not approve the request. I do believe however, that BCC should be considered an important community member in the next update of the comprehensive plan.

Factor 17: While the Planning Commission noted no visible opposition to the request and simply stated “it is better to approve this request” I am of the belief that there are many in the community tiring of the ever increasing expansion and greater taxation by Butler Community College to educate an estimated 80% plus percentage of students who do not reside nor pay their fair share of property taxes in Butler County. While most recognize the importance of a good education and feel that BCC is doing a great job at that, they also note that the funding of this College by only those who reside in the County, yet service a much greater area, is simply not fair. The “out-of-county” tuition versus the “in-county” tuition rates do not even begin to relieve the economic burden that the residents of the City of Andover and Butler County as a whole, have to shoulder. To allow a greater expansion of their current facilities to service an ever-increasing out-of-county (including State, National and International) student population that does not reside in Butler County provides serious negative gain to the general economic welfare of our residents. It puts Andover at a competitive disadvantage for new businesses and housing starts when comparing our tax rates to the surrounding region.

 

Recommendations:

 

I urge the Council to heavily consider and place more weight into Factor 17 specifically. We have discussed this issue in depth and have repeatedly stated and recognize the true economic tax burden that the College places upon us. If we do not take a stand now, the tax and spend policy of the College will continue to spiral out of control.

I would encourage the Council to send this back to the Planning Commission for further explanation of how this special use falls under industrial zoning. I believe we are not utilizing the zoning regulations properly and as intended.

I do recognize that a plat of this property is currently under design (only by our staff’s insistence) but I would hope the Council would demand and expect proper platting and zoning of the property so it meets the obligations and intentions of our zoning regulations before we consider this case again.