After about two hours of input from residents, Sedgwick County commissioners tabled a vote over a proposed events center near Auburn Hills in west Wichita.
They voted unanimously Wednesday morning to send the proposal back to the city-county planning commission for more consideration.
Residents from the Auburn Hills neighborhood packed the commission meeting room and voiced their concerns over the planned unit development vote.
The planned unit development would permit what planning staff call an “events center.” It would be just north of Kellogg on the east side of 135th Street West.
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Planning director Dale Miller said that means the center could host outdoor recreation and entertainment, weddings, family reunions, and birthday and retirement celebrations.
“They also want the ability to serve alcohol, depending on the event,” Miller said. “ … They are also requesting the ability to provide live music and service up to a maximum 350 patrons.”
Auburn Hills residents say an events center like that would ruin the peaceful nature of the neighborhood.
“Most of us are planning on this being our last home,” said Kent Owen, who lives across from the property. “We had no idea that something like this could possibly happen across the street.”
They expressed concern about noise, traffic, dust from the gravel parking lot and unruly alcohol-fueled behavior. They also worry it will cause their property values to tank.
“Please protect this community and allow it to remain this great residential community that it is,” said Barbara Hall, tearing up. “The quality of life will be diminished.”
Russ Ewy, the agent on behalf of the applicant, said some of the residents’ concerns are overblown.
“We heard a lot that would fall under this umbrella of NIMBYism,” said Ewy, referring to a “not in my backyard” attitude against development.
“The sheer distance between the actual activities and the actual residential activities is fairly staggering,” he added. “We are 700 to 900 feet away in many directions from actual homes to the events center.”
Some commissioners had issues with the concerns the residents raised, such as the gravel parking lot.
“There are a lot of loose ends here. … This is much more closer to an urban situation than a rural situation,” Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said. The property and the area surrounding it are in his western Sedgwick County district.
Jim Howell and Richard Ranzau spoke more favorably than other commissioners about the proposal.
“We have a building that already exists. It’s empty and it’s been for years, and we want to encourage economic development,” Ranzau said.
“If I lived in this area, I’d rather have this events center than some of the other things that could be there.”
The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission will now make another recommendation to the County Commission. Commissioners can’t send the proposal back to the planning commission again.
The timing of the MAPC meeting depends on the applicant and when they submit any revisions, Miller said.
Once the planning commission makes a recommendation, the County Commission would need four out of five commissioners to approve it. But it would only take three commissioners to reject the proposal.