Lake Quivira may be the only gated city that straddles a county line in Kansas.
Most of its 400 homes are in Johnson County but 17 of them are across the line in Wyandotte County. The political boundary between the two cuts through the lake on the northern end.
The clubhouse, golf course, and tennis courts — even the gas station just outside the security booth — are in Wyandotte County.
But during my recent trip to Lake Quivira — I found that if you didn't know which side the homes or amenities were on, it was impossible to tell where you were —WyCo or JoCo.
“You’re in God’s country – Wyandotte County,” says John Jurcyk, a lifelong ‘Dotte' resident.
"Do you know where the boundary is?" I ask.
"Where is it?"
"My driveway," he says.
Jurcyk's wife, Rita, looks confused when I ask her how the county line affects their lives.
“I forget it's there," she says. "We get along very well with the neighbors to our right and they do live in Johnson County."
Walking the line
As it turns out, the line does have a role in governance of this unusual suburban enclave.
Courtney ‘Corky’ Nason has lived in Quivira since 1968 and served on the board of Quivira Inc., the powerful, well-funded neighborhood association. It's based in the country club with its overstuffed chairs and expansive bay windows overlooking the marina.
He says the county line comes up in a couple of ways.
“If you’re dealing with the dam, you’re going to be dealing with the Wyandotte County people. If you’re going to be dealing with assessments and the amount of money we [Quivira, Inc.] pay taxes to Wyandotte County, we’ve got to take that into consideration. The vast majority of our [shared] assets are in Wyandotte County,” Nason says.
Kids on the Johnson County side are assigned to Shawnee Mission schools while their Wyandotte neighbors are assigned to Turner, though many Quivira residents send their kids to private schools.
The biggest difference is probably the property taxes. While homes range from 1950s lake-style ranch homes to million dollar "McMansions," a house of the same value will have higher property taxes in Wyandotte County.
A resort becomes a city
Building a city in two counties wasn’t exactly the original plan – Lake Quivira was supposed to be a resort town and its location was based on where developers could dam water and create a lake. That happened in 1928, but when the Depression hit, development slowed to a crawl and residents complained. In 1941, they created the homeowners association, Quivira Inc, and bought out the developers.
The city of Lake Quivira was formed in 1971 because of a rumor that Shawnee wanted to annex the community. Corky Nason says he and his wife were on vacation at the time.
"When we came back the place was in an uproar," he says.
“Some of it I could actually prove, but some of it’s the talk of the lake," Nason continues. "They wanted to annex us because we had our own sewers, we had our own water district and [Shawnee] said they could get the revenue from us and wouldn’t have to spend any money on us."
Historically, there were rules against forming cities across county lines, but the two counties made an exception for Lake Quivira. According to Nason, it worked out well for both parties.
“I’d say Lake Quivira is a good example of how of you should get along,” he says. “We have roots in Wyandotte County and we have several people here who have been in Wyandotte County politics, they know people ... and we all get along."
Larry Meeker also served on the board of Quivira Inc., and was once mayor of the city of Lake Quivira. He says Lake Quivirans have a strong sense of civic engagement.
“One of the best measures of that engagement is if you look at the voting record. You know, Johnson County — particularly in an off-election year — we’re happy if we get 10, 15 percent of registered voters to vote. Out here, it’ll be three to four times that,” says Meeker.
He says people out here feel more like Lake Quivirans than anything else.
“I mean the county line, just, really doesn’t mean anything, other than in perhaps the finest points of governance,” he says.
Clubhouse dues include a small dock on the lake for each household.
The tranquil, tree-line lake is still ice cold and covered boats and grills are waiting for summer. That’s perhaps when the line between the "Dottes" and Johnson Countians is least noticeable — when Quivirans are out on the lake together.
Take a peek into Lake Quivira:
This look at the Wyandotte / Johnson County line is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.
We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them. Become a source for KCUR as we investigate Johnson and Wyandotte Counties.