As planners Mike Beezhold and Laura Turnbull told me the keys in getting support was to highlight the recreational and water quality benefits that can be achieved through stormwater management. Several lakes are integral to the stormwater system being developed, as well as corridors running through residential developments (more on that in a minute
The City of Lenexa (population 45,000, with room to grow to a projected population of 70,000) is located in suburban Johnson County, part of the Kansas City metro area.
Stormwater is the only utility handled by the city -- but it's quite a task. Altogether, about $4.5 million is spent annually for facilities related to stormwater management. In addition to the sales tax levy -- which has generated $7.2 million between 2000 and 2005 -- there's a system development charge on new construction and other revenue streams.
One thing the City has done with these funds, in addition to constructing capital facilities, is acquire land around future lakes. This makes it easier to avoid development pressures close to the lakes. The city's plans set out a "lake zone of influence" around the lakes. There's also a stream setback ordinance -- Mike told me that nearly 1/10 of all land within Lenexa falls within this setback area.
All of these efforts are designed to control flooding, maintain water quality, and offer recreational amenities for residents.
I was shown an interesting project designed to introduce native habitat in a stream corridor between two developments. Funded by a state grant, an attractively landscaped area has been introduced. As Laura explained, several meetings were held with the residents in developing the project plans.
The project does not try to totally restore the native habitat. Laura noted that "it's a challenge working native plants into a suburban landscape, and there's a need to consider what people will accept." Yes, native plants are used. But they're arranged in a more formal manner than would naturally occur -- while still functioning effectively for water quality.
Stream corridors are used as recreational linkages throughout the city. The new 203 acre "city center" development now under construction (to include housing, office space, shopping, and a civic center), will also include a green corridor connecting to an existing park. That's the large depression running through the site -- you might be able to make it out in this photo.
Focusing on the recreational and water quality benefits of stormwater management seems to be a winning solution for the citizens of Lenexa.
Thanks to the Lenexa planners for hosting me -- and for those great ribs. From left to right: myself, then: Michael Beezhold, Watershed Manager; Tim Collins, Development Engineer; Don Oppliger, Lenexa Planning Commission Chairman; Tim Green, City Engineer; Laura Turnbull, Watershed Planner; Gil Pintar, Development Coordinator; Brant Gaul, Long Range Planner.
p.s., apologies for not having time to provide details on the large city center development that's broken ground. If you have some time, details are available on a section of the city's excellent web site.