County Commission Hears Testimony On Tecumseh Recreational Area Use, Defers Vote

By: Giang Nguyen Email
By: Giang Nguyen Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee County Commissioners deferred decision on a contentious permit request for a Tecumseh property that could bring in big crowds for motocross events.

Commissioner Ted Ensley on Monday morning motioned to defer a vote on a conditional use permit for an outdoor recreational facility to May 17, allowing commissioners "time to digest the information," he said.

The facility is located on land owned by Greg Bender, at the southwest corner of SE 37th Street and SE Woodring Road in Tecumseh Township.

Commissioners approved the motion 3-0.

About 80 to 100 people packed Room 409 at the Shawnee County Courthouse, which was used for today's meeting in anticipation of the large crowd.

Seven people spoke in favor of the permit request Greg Bender represented, while 20 people, mostly residents, spoke out against it during more than two hours of public hearing.

"They are all professional events, they all have professional medical people there," Donnie Clausen, who volunteers at the facility, maintenance the tracks. "It's a family organization, it's just fun." he said.

He noted that volunteers, who have unrestricted access to the property for private use, do not pay for that privilege.

"I know them individually," Bender said, estimating that there were about 30 volunteers.

Clausen was one of seven people who spoke in support of Bender's permit request, praising Keegan's professionalism in coordinating the events.

Perry Keegan, who manages the property for Bender, has held two motocross events at the property a year since 2010.

"To me the residents that are close by that I talked to didn't even know it was going on," he said. "Many weren't informed until later that there was an event going on." he told 13 News.

The permit request would allow for five motorized and ten non-motorized events a year. Neighbors are taking issue mostly with the motorized events.

When John Hamilton, an attorney representing several neighbors of the area asked all those opposing the permit request to stand, more than three quarters of the audience rose to their feet.

Hamilton also presented commissioners with a petition of 53 residents opposing the measure.

20 opponents spoke during the public hearing part. Many took issue with the noise levels, damage to the roads and possible property devaluation.

"Would you seek to buy a house, all things being equal,in or near a facility like this? And if you did chose to buy that house, how much less would you be prepared to pay for it?" Steve Johnson, a Topekan real estate agent, asked commissioners, although he noted that it is difficult to quantify the deprecation.

Shawnee County's Planning Commission has already agreed in a 7-0 vote earlier this month. But a protest petition by one neighbor means the county's three commissioners must also unanimously approve the event.

Ed Peck's lives within a thousand feet of the disputed property, just down the gravel road to the west."We live in the country for a reason and that reason is we want peace and quiet. That's why we built here.That's why the folks moved out from the cities," he said.

Peck and several neighbors told 13 News they fear their way of life is in danger.

"To take away the quiet lives of all the folks who have been out there all these years, it just doesn't seem that it would be fair or just in any way shape or form," Peck told commissioners.

"The concept of fairness in this case goes a long way to the rights of of the property owner and what we can do within the scope of the law," Bender said.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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