Petition FAQs

City of Merriam Statement Regarding Community Petitions

Three petitions were recently submitted to the City concerning the design of the new aquatics center, the sale of land in Vavra Park, and how money is spent from the I-35 TIF District Fund. Per state statute, the City sent the petitions to the Johnson County Election Office, whose task was to verify the appropriate number of signatures on the petitions comply with state law. However, the Election Office does not verify if submitted ordinances are allowable under state law. It is the City's legal opinion, based on state law and relevant case law, that the ordinances contained within these petitions are not allowable under state statute and the City is not legally compelled to act on them. As such, the Merriam City Council will not be taking any action regarding this issue.

FAQs

What petitions were filed with the City?
On January 14, 2019, the City was presented with three petitions. Each of the three petitions began circulation in early September 2018. The three petitions contain ordinances related to the following:

  • To require a public vote to approve TIF expenditures of more than $1 million within the existing I-35 Redevelopment District. View Petition.
  • To require the City to keep the then-current outdoor aquatic center or replace it with an equivalent-sized outdoor aquatic space to be redesigned by a new citizen-led committee. View Petition.
  • To require a public vote to approve any transfer of ownership or interest in Vavra Park. View Petition.

What is the City’s position on the petitions?
Each of the three petitions was submitted pursuant to KSA 12-3013. Per KSA 12-3013, administrative ordinances are not subject to the petition process; only legislative ordinances are allowable. Also, any petition submitted under KSA 12-3013 that contains an ordinance that is subject to a petition process covered by another state statute is not subject to this petition process.

Based on state statute and relevant case law, it is the City’s position the TIF and Aquatics ordinances are administrative in nature and not allowable. Additionally, the ordinance relating to the transfer of parkland within Vavra Park is not subject to KSA 12-3013 since the transfer of parkland is governed by KSA 12-1301, therefore, not allowable as submitted. As such, the Merriam City Council will not be taking any action regarding the petitions.

What is the difference between a legislative ordinance and an administrative ordinance?
In their basic forms, legislative ordinances create new policy or law and administrative ordinances direct the implementation of existing policy or law. In short, creating new policy or law where it does not exist is legislative, creating policy or law that governs how existing law is applied is administrative. For example, if residents wanted to allow golf carts on city streets they could petition the City Council because it would create a new law. However, if there is already a law or policy in place a petition that attempts to change the way the law is being applied would be considered administrative and is not allowable under state statute.

Based on state statute and relevant case law, it is the City’s position the TIF and Aquatics ordinances are administrative in nature and not allowable. Additionally, the ordinance relating to the transfer of parkland within Vavra Park is not subject to KSA 12-3013 since the transfer of parkland is governed by KSA 12-1301, therefore, not allowable as submitted. As such, the Merriam City Council will not be taking any action regarding the petitions.

Did the petitions have enough valid signatures?
Since the petitions are administrative in nature, the number of signatures is of no legal consequence. However, the City did send the three petitions to the Johnson County Election Office for verification and they could not verify the required amount of signatures per state statute on any of the three petitions. Regardless, since the petitions are administrative in nature, the number of signatures is of no legal consequence.

Based on state statute and relevant case law, it is the City’s position the TIF and Aquatics ordinances are administrative in nature and not allowable. Additionally, the ordinance relating to the transfer of parkland within Vavra Park is not subject to KSA 12-3013 since the transfer of parkland is governed by KSA 12-1301, therefore, not allowable as submitted. As such, the Merriam City Council will not be taking any action regarding the petitions.


Project Update

For updated information about the Community Center project, visit the Building Community website for more project details, including FAQs about aquatics, budget, and timeline.