Plan to incorporate Stilwell fails again

In the end, a populist vision to incorporate the city of Stilwell failed to materialize Thursday in Johnson County. Stilwell would have been the county’s 21st municipality.

Johnson County commissioners could not unanimously agree to create the county’s fifth-largest city, so by state law, the idea failed – again.

For more than a decade, residents in southeast Johnson County have wanted to control their future, free from the threat of annexation by Overland Park, the county’s largest city.

Fearing a future of strip-mall development and beige sameness, residents in southeastern Johnson County filed incorporation papers in February to create the 23-square-mile city.

“We want to control our own destiny and keep our tax money working here,” incorporation organizer David Webb told commissioners. “We want to make our own decisions.”

Commissioners Ed Peterson, John Toplikar and Dave Lindstrom seemed willing to welcome the new city, but they were outflanked by the rest of the commission.

Had this been a normal vote, supporters of the new city would have had a fighting chance. But under Kansas law, a resolution to incorporate requires a unanimous vote of the commission.

Had the proposed city been smaller, Chairwoman Annabeth Surbaugh said, it would have received her support. Former Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert said the plan needed more detail and from his perspective, the correct vote was a “no.”