Plans for dream home are zoning nightmare

11/05/2013 4:59 PM

11/05/2013 5:00 PM

An Overland Park couple eager to build their dream home hit a snag with the city.

At its meeting Monday night, the city council unanimously denied Meg Godderz’s request to rezone her recently purchased property to an agricultural district, which would allow the land to be zoned out of the Colton Lake South subdivision.

Godderz and her husband, Adam, are planning to build an estate-sized house on the land, more than eight acres on the southwest corner of 156th Terrace and Switzer Road.

Several years ago, the land had been intended as part of the Colton Lake South subdivision, but the developer went through foreclosure and the property was seized by the bank.

The couple bought the land from the bank in August.

Although city staff supported the rezoning, the council disagreed, mainly because the switch would exempt the couple from paying excise taxes for the property.

Land labeled as an agricultural district does not require platting, therefore not requiring the landowner to pay the excise tax, which is used by the city to pay for thoroughfare street improvements.

In Overland Park, the excise tax is 21.5 cents per square foot, or roughly $9,000 to $10,000 per acre, said Leslie Karr, planning manager of Overland Park.

Godderz calculated that the excise tax for her property would then be about $80,000, which she didn’t think was feasible for a single family.

“The reality is, the tax is extreme,” she said, after the meeting. “I understand the city wants its money but that is just too much for one family, for one home. We’re not saying we don’t want to pay taxes, we just want to pay a fair share.”

But several council members and the mayor said they didn’t feel comfortable allowing the property to be rezoned to an agricultural district, simply so it would alleviate the hefty tax for the couple.

After all, Mayor Carl Gerlach said, it would look like the city was playing favoritism and being unfair to other landowners.

He said the couple should have known what they were getting into when they bought the large piece of land.

The council also didn’t feel comfortable rezoning land to an agricultural district when it wouldn’t be used for agricultural.

Adam Godderz confirmed that the land would not be used for any sort of farming.

“We have no intention of raising livestock or growing crops,” he told the council.

While Councilman Terry Goodman had no objection to the couple building its dream home on such a large acreage, he did think it was inappropriate for the couple to zone its land as agricultural in order to do so.

“I feel strongly that zoning should reflect the intended use for the property,” he said. “If the property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Godderz isn’t going to be for agricultural purposes, I have a problem.”

When the council denied the rezoning request, it made a stipulation allowing future rezoning application fees to be waived for the couple, as they try to figure out another way to build their home.

Now, Godderz and her husband are back to square one.

With no planning or developing experience between them, the road toward their dream home has been a confusing and rocky experience, the couple said.

But they’re ready to try again.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Adam Godderz. “We’re just going to talk with the city and come up with a different plan. That’s all we can do.”

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