Shawnee is taking first steps to claim eminent domain over 20 acres of private property in order to build a parks and recreation operations base facility.
The private property in question is located at 18750 Johnson Drive just west of I-435 and includes a 30,000-square-foot warehouse. Wayne Developer LLC bought the property in August 2018 for $3.5 million and has “expressed no interest” in selling the property to the city at a similar price, according to a city memo.
The Shawnee council last night unanimously agreed to acquire the property by claiming eminent domain. There was no council discussion.
Melissa Hoag Sherman, an attorney with Spencer Fane LLP who represents Republic Services and Wayne Development, the owner of the property, had urged the council to vote against claiming eminent domain or at least table the discussion pending further review.
Sherman said Wayne Development is working with Republic Services, a provider of solid waste collection, to build a multimillion-dollar operation (the city memo indicated the project is a $13 million commercial trucking facility) and bring 145 jobs to Shawnee. Her clients think the city doesn’t want the project to be built and is claiming eminent domain to stop it.
“From the start of Wayne Development’s meetings with the city, the message from the city was ‘We don’t want you here,’” Sherman said. “I think there was some concern about Republic being in the trash business and the area being identified as ‘the trash corridor.’”
Sherman said she and the property owners were “surprised to hear” the city stating the need to claim eminent domain of the property for public improvement. She said six acres of property adjacent to the 20 acres of private property are available for use.
She added that she believes the city previously had the opportunity to acquire the property but chose against it.
“Given everything that we’ve seen… we don’t believe that that the city has a proper public purpose for taking this ground,” Sherman said. “We believe that the city’s actions are coming on the heels of the statement that ‘we don’t want you here,’ meaning ‘we don’t want you to be using this property, so we’re going to take it.’”
City lists parks and recreation department needs
The 20 acres of private property were formerly used by Deffenbaugh Motors Inc. and are adjacent to the city’s public works facility.
City staff reported that the parks and recreation department lacks a central base of operations and adequate storage for equipment. Personnel operate at three separate locations, including at 12321 Johnson Drive and in facilities at Herman Laird Park and Veterans Park.
Bert Schnettgoecke, senior project engineer, said in the memo that the city’s operational needs have grown as Shawnee continues to expand and develop.
Parks and recreation equipment and materials are currently stored throughout the city at varying locations, according to the memo. Personnel are dispatched throughout Shawnee to retrieve supplies and equipment, resulting in “much inefficiency and loss of time.”