A group of nearly 300 county residents dreamed of establishing the city of Golden in northern Miami County.
The April to October campaign came to an end for petitioner Jennifer Williams and other Golden supporters on Wednesday, Oct. 13, when county commissioners voted 3-1 to deny incorporation of the city.
Supporters and opponents sat on opposite sides of the commission chambers as they listened to each commissioner talk about the reasoning behind their vote.
Some supporters were clad in the bright yellow “We Are Golden” T-shirts they first broke out at the June 23 public hearing.
But unlike that night, supporters did not express optimism for a brighter future as they filed out of the room.
As he exited, one supporter pointed at Commissioner Tyler Vaughan and told him history would prove him right. Vaughan was the only commissioner who advocated for establishing the city.
The vote came six months and four days after county resident Williams filed a petition to incorporate about 9-square miles north of Hillsdale Lake into a city to block the march of intermodal warehouses into Miami County.
The petition had 287 signatures, collected in four days, said Williams who estimated she would have had well over 300 with a little more time.
“A lot of people here (supporting Golden) aren’t even on that petition,” Williams said of the commission chambers.
Commissioner Vaughan made a motion to approve the incorporation of Golden, but that motion died for lack of a second.
Commissioner George Pretz followed with a motion to deny incorporation. Commission Chair Rob Roberts and Commissioner Phil Dixon joined Pretz in voting to deny formation of the city.
“It’s my opinion that adding one more government in the north part of Miami County would just add more complex issues to the development of the area,” Roberts said.
Roberts later expanded on that point, saying decision-making in the region was already complex with the city governments of Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill, and the county governments of Miami and Johnson all having an interest in that region, not to mention state agencies those governments must work with, he said.
Roberts said given that climate he couldn’t justify adding one more government to the mix.
Williams said Golden was not in competition with any of those entities and cited the support the city of Spring Hill gave for Golden in a letter to the commission.
Edgerton took a neutral position on the matter.
Petitioners said they wanted to preserve the rural residential and agricultural lifestyle by keeping the intermodal out of Miami County.
Planning Director Teresa Reeves told county commissioners Aug. 18 petitioners could use that strategy if the County Commission votes in favor of incorporation.
Reeves told commissioners that formal approval by the county commissioners is not required if the city of Edgerton, or any other city, annexes land in Miami County by consent.
The Logistics Park Kansas City intermodal facility is located in Edgerton, which has seen its city boundaries expand by more than five miles in the past 10 years to accommodate growth of the intermodal facility, according to information provided by Jim Kaup, the attorney advising the County Commission in the matter.
The intermodal complex has advanced to Miami County’s doorstep.
Vaughan said having industrial development in that area of the county is contradictory to the county’s comprehensive plan, which calls for the area to remain rural residential and agriculture.
“I think it was evident through the pre-work we’ve done on the comp plan and the preliminary results that this was in the interest of the county to have the city of Golden incorporated in that area,” Vaughan said. “We define progress. I think this decision to deny the incorporation has limited our ability as a commission to define progress.
“And I’m not saying I want to stop progress,” Vaughan said. “I think we’ve limited our ability to define progress, and we have become at the whim of somebody who is not in our county, which I think is unfortunate.”
Supporters and opponents spoke at the June public hearing, and the commission received voluminous amounts of written correspondence from both camps.
Commissioners also were charged with considering 17 factors when making their decision. Most of those factors were set out in state statute.
Citing those factors, Roberts said cities are created to provide a level of service that’s different from the one those residents are currently receiving.
There has been “really no intention to provide any deeper services than what they are provided today (by the county),” Roberts said of petitioners.
Dixon said one of the most important points for him in the 17 factors was what impact the intermodal would have on Hillsdale Lake and its watershed if warehouses expanded into Miami County.
“After hearing the expert testimony of witnesses, I feel there would not be a negative effect to the lake area if warehouses were to be built,” Dixon said.
Pretz noted that only 1,000 acres of the roughly 5,400 acres inside the proposed boundaries is plotted. The open space consists primarily of farm ground and pasture, he said.
“I feel a proposed incorporation would be contrary to the public interest,” Pretz said. “The sparse rural nature of the (land inside the proposed city) would be ill-served by the governmental burdens that a city requires.”
Formation of the city would create another level of property taxes and regulations, he said.
Williams said afterward the County Commission’s decision to deny the incorporation goes against the will of most of the citizens of the area and against the county’s own comprehensive plan.
Williams was disappointed she didn’t have an opportunity to make a closing argument, saying she could have refuted some of the commission’s assumptions that she said are inaccurate.
“I’m thankful Commissioner Vaughan recognized what the citizens are dealing with... nothing protects us except for this,” Williams said of the proposed city. “When you have an 80 percent approval rating (which) attorney Jim Kaup says we have, basically, where else in any other political atmosphere do you have an 80 percent approval rating?”
Williams said smart planning isn’t possible if there is outside infiltration. She said Edgerton, with the intermodal expansion, is surrounding the small-lot people in Johnson County, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Williams fears that is what will happen now in Miami County.
“They left hundreds of people really looking at whether they are going to have to move out of this area because the writing is on the wall that they want the warehouses to come in,” Williams said.
She added: “It should never have come down to the big landowners versus the little landowners.”
Williams said northern Miami County is such a beautiful area and she hates to see it destroyed.
“It’s just so sad that they (Commission) have left us in a position with no way to defend ourselves,” she said. “As our county commissioners, they take an oath to help protect our property rights and our property values. And with this decision there is no protection for the little guy.”