ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The cities of Marion County want input and some control over any new housing in the areas within a certain distance of their city limits.
They are discussing the issue with county officials following the release in February of a draft of a comprehensive plan for Marion County.
The distance to be controlled jointly by a city and Marion County has varied in discussions from one mile to three miles.
Peggy Jay, mayor of Goessel, said she has most often heard discussed distances of three miles for Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody and of one mile for the other cities in the county.
Cindy Harms is city clerk and zoning administrator at Peabody and represents the city in county planning. She said Peabody is asking for one mile.
Delores Dalke, mayor of Hillsboro, said Hillsboro’s subdivision regulations adopted in the late 1980s already extend 1.5 miles around the city, but don’t coordinate with county planning rules. Cities can zone out to three miles under state laws, she said.
The main things the cities want are planning in the areas coordinated between cities and county, and protection against becoming “land-locked” under county rules that new homes be built on 40 acres each.
Dennis Nichols, city administrator at Marion, said it becomes especially critical to the future growth of Marion because the city is surrounded by 40 to 50 percent flood plain.
He said the city is already blocked on the west, and has limited growth possibilities to the north and south, with “basically the east open.”
Jay said: “If we don’t have the ability to plan, we won’t be allowed to grow. We’ll be stuck with what we’ve got. The city would like to have that option, to coordinate and cooperate with the county.”
Dalke said Hillsboro is growing, and is expected to continue to grow in the future. It will need to annex more land.
“We would like some opportunity to say what might happen right outside our border,” she said. “We could become land-locked. It’s a fact that somebody could build a house in the middle of 40 acres. Or they could put one on 10 acres. That’s too much space taken for our future growth. Absolutely, I would like to see people building on one-acre sites within three miles of Hillsboro.”
The cities say their concerns should not affect anybody farming in the areas in question. It’s about new developments, and expectations that cities will be expected to offer utilities and other services to them in the future.
Dalke said, “For anyone in agriculture, they would do whatever they’re allowed to do today. We absolutely don’t want to tell a farmer anything he has to do. We’re just talking about new subdivisions. As long as a farmer wants to farm his ground, nothing would change.”
Dalke said the situation now is confusing. Home builders are expected to get a variance from the county, go to various utilities, and check with city subdivision requirements.
Marion is in the process of developing subdivision regulations. None of the other cities have them.
Nichols agreed with Dalke.
“The current process is cumbersome, not growth friendly at all,” he said.
Dalke said there is already one area of homes outside the Hillsboro city limits-east of the United Methodist Church-where homes were built on one-acre plots before subdivision regulations were established.
Nobody told these homeowners how they should build or what proper setbacks for Hillsboro might be, she said. They are on rural water lines, Greeley Gas lines, Kansas Power & Light electricity and each have a septic tank, she said.
Dalke said she would like to see a joint planning committee deal with land issues immediately outside the city-three members from the city’s planning commission and three from the county’s planning commission.
She would expect rules primarily to pertain to housing because industrial developers usually seek to coordinate with cities for mutual benefit.
Nichols said a joint planning committee might be the only option, but personally he would prefer jurisdiction by the city. He said a joint group could end up failing to provide necessary leadership, and merely add another layer of bureaucracy.
Jay and Harms said they just want to make sure their cities would have some type of joint decision-making with the county.
Dalke and Nichols said it is fair for cities to have at least equal if not more say in these areas because they will be called upon for providing services in them.