A lawsuit brought by a group of Johnson and Miami County homeowners against annexation of adjoining property by the City of Edgerton was thrown out for lack of standing, but the judge agreed with their premise and suggested they seek remedy from Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
10th District Court Judge James Vano issued the decision against Protect Rural JoCo. From the trial transcript, Protectrural060722, he found legal standing in such a case is available only to injured parties, such as those whose property was taken, the state legislature (since annexations are considered legislative actions), or the state attorney general. Since none of those conditions were met by the homeowners, the judge found his court did not have jurisdiction to rule. However, in an interesting twist, Judge Vano agreed with the group’s central tenant; that the city’s action violated Kansas Statutes:
“I can see the illegality”, he remarked in court.
The case involved Edgerton’s December 2020 annexation of seven properties, some 770 acres, for the development of Logistics Park Kansas City. The manufacturing and distribution center is bordered by I-35 and 215th Street from north to south and from east to west by Homestead Lane and Moonlight Road. The area will be heavily traveled by large trucks, another concern for the plaintiffs.
But Protect Rural JoCo organizer Jennifer Williams charges the method Edgerton used to annex the properties is the focus of her group’s protest:
“Our case is against the illegal narrow corridor Edgerton used to jump across Gardner Road to annex and rezone over 700 rural residential acres.”
She charges Edgerton used an “end around” on transparency and public accountability:
“Had they not used the narrow corridor to access the island, they would have been obligated to comply with KSA 12-521, which would have required a public hearing with the county and extensive reporting, including how this will harm neighboring property owners.”
Although disappointed by the outcome of their case, she says her group is optimistic by the judge’s finding in dismissing the suit:
“During the June 7th oral argument hearing to discuss standing, Judge Vano said something very important. He stated it IS a narrow corridor and a violation of the law, but the law does not give us standing nor him permission to change the statute to give us standing to bring the lawsuit, so he was forced to dismiss it. He said only the Attorney General has standing. We can appeal but the admittance that it was a violation is HUGE because Edgerton and others on Johnson County’s staff and BOCC always claimed it was legal.”
“ (g) No city may utilize any provision of this section to annex a narrow corridor of land to gain access to noncontiguous tracts of land. The corridor of land must have a tangible value and purpose other than for enhancing future annexations of land by the city.”
As he dismissed the case, Judge Vano pointed the homeowners in the direction of Topeka to find redress:
“Whereas, I think that’s a function for the state since the city is a creation of the legislature”
Edgerton Mayor Donald Roberts took exception to the charges of illegality:
“The City of Edgerton has always scrupulously followed the legal requirements for annexation and zoning of properties in its jurisdiction. It has been transparent in its actions, and it has openly and fairly addressed every legal issue presented in the appropriate forum.”
Safety concerns are also on the minds of area residents. Mark Hall lives in Spring Hill:
“The narrow county roads in this area have no shoulders and are not built to handle the heavy truck/trailer traffic tearing up these roads at taxpayers expense. More importantly it is dangerous for those of us living and driving these roads everyday.”
Joyce Ghaisarnia, like Williams, lives in Miami County:
“Several years ago, millions of dollars were spent to build an exit on Homestead off of I-35 expressly for semi-truck traffic to access the intermodal in Edgerton KS. However, there is so much truck traffic where the trucks take Gardner Road from I-35 to 207th. Gardner Road is a narrow 2 lane paved road with no shoulders. It is not intended for heavy truck traffic.
“When Edgerton did repair work on 207th west of Gardner Road last October, there was absolutely no signage put up to let the truck traffic know the road was closed. Nor were any detour signs posted so that traffic could be directed to the appropriate streets to access the warehouses on 207th. Subsequently, I ended up with a semi-truck driver driving into my yard because he could not make the 90 degree right hand turn at 217th and Waverly Road.”
Protect Rural JoCo has contacted Attorney General Schmidt and urged his intervention in this issue but they have not yet received a response.