Property owners at 21st, Oliver sue to overturn rezoning rejection

Property owners who want to rezone two homes at 21st and Oliver for commercial development are suing to overturn Wichita City Council’s rejection of their request.

The council turned down the rezoning on Feb. 11, backing the December rejection by the Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, which said it based its rejection on neighborhood opposition.

In the proposal, the Mike Marks family, which owns the northwest corner property, and Rip Gooch, who owns the lot to the north, sought limited commercial zoning and agreed to limit development on the corner to a convenience store, drugstore or neighborhood offices. The properties total nearly 3 acres.

Neighborhood representatives who spoke before the planning board in December said the development would increase traffic inside their neighborhood and reduce property values.

Attorney Bob Kaplan, who filed the suit on behalf of the property owners, said that the council decided to deny the request only because the neighbors opposed it. That’s not enough of a reason under the law, Kaplan said.

“You cannot decide the land use based solely on the wishes of the neighborhood,” he said. “You’ve got to have additional reasons.”

City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf declined to comment.