Archive for Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Family files suit to stop softball complex

February 15, 2006

A Shawnee man has filed a lawsuit against the Shawnee Mission School District and the city of Shawnee to keep softball fields out of his neighborhood.

On Feb. 7, Robert Manly and his attorneys filed the lawsuit in Johnson County District Court, asking the court to overturn the city's decision to allow a special-use permit to build a softball field at 6101 Maurer Rd.

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"I feel like I'm going to live in the parking lot of Kauffmann stadium," Manly said.

Rod Richardson, attorney for Manly and his wife, said the family had purchased a 40-acre tract of land near Maurer Road in hopes of building their dream home on the site.

"He and his family had planned to build on it for some time," Richardson said. "It's surrounded by a piece of land that's higher, and he always understood that land would be used for a school. Then, in October, he discovered through a notice from the city that the Shawnee Mission district had decided not to build a grade school here but decided to build a softball complex."

On Jan. 9, an attorney for Manly also presented a plan to the Shawnee City Council that showed how Manly wanted to build several upscale homes around the small lake on his property and argued that the softball complex would decrease the value of these homes and the Manly family's ability to sell them.

The Shawnee Mission School Board approved the softball complex design by VSR Design last fall. The complex would have four fields to accommodate players throughout the district. A city land-use guide designated the land for a public/quasi public use, but because the land is still in an agricultural zoning district, the school district had to obtain a special-use permit to build.

The Shawnee Planning Commission originally recommended denial of the permit. However, a split decision Jan. 9 by the City Council allowed the permit with a swing vote from Mayor Jeff Meyers.

At a January meeting, Manly and other Shawnee residents warned school board members they would file a lawsuit if the board continued with its plans to build a softball field. Mary Zillhart, whose husband was the original property owner, said she was disappointed in the district's decision to build softball fields rather than a school.

"My husband never would have sold them that land if he knew they were going to build a stadium there," she said.

In January, school officials said construction could begin sometime in February or March.

Curt Tideman, an attorney for the school district, said the lawsuit would not prevent the district from moving forward with construction plans.

Marvin Rainey, Shawnee city attorney, said the city followed due process in granting the special use permit.

Manly, whose children attend Shawnee Mission schools, said he supports school activities and athletics. He told board members that a softball field was a good project, but that they had chosen a poor location.

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