Planning commission selects its candidate for zoning consultant

The Hillsboro Planning and Development Commission selected Thursday the person it will recommend to be the city’s new planning and zoning consultant.

John Riggs of Earl & Riggs in Lindsborg was chosen by the commission after it interviewed the only other candidate, Scott Michie of Bucher, Willis & Ratliff in Kansas City.

Riggs’s name will be forwarded to the city council for approval. If the commission’s recommendation is confirmed, he will succeed longtime consultant Eric Strauss, who moved to Michigan.

Commission members felt that Riggs, who was interviewed at the commission’s June 28 meeting, offered several advantages over Michie.

First, Riggs was geographically closer to Hillsboro, making it easier for him to attend meetings. Second, Riggs’s company specializes in small cities whereas Michie’s company seemed to focus more on significantly larger urban settings.

Moreover, Michie was interviewing on behalf of his team of associates. He said the person who would be assigned to Hillsboro, should his company be picked, would likely be a recent university graduate who had joined the team.

Steven Garrett, city administrator and zoning administrator, said these two candidates were the only ones who indicated they were available to fill the vacancy.

In other business, Garrett told the commission he had decided to issue a zoning permit to Gary and Sherry Fields to move a duplex onto a lot on East D Street between the Pizza Hut and Ken’s Place, a car body and detailing business.

The issue arose at the commission’s June 28 meeting because the lot was zoned for “limited commercial” use.

Garrett said housing had been allowed recently in commercial areas without a zone change and he did not feel comfortable enforcing a code that had not been informed in the past. At the end of discussion, the commission had indicated that the Fields should apply for a conditional-use permit.

“After two weeks of poring over regulations from past practices, I was presented with few good choices,” Garrett said Thursday. “So I made the best choice I could.

“I’m becoming less and less enthralled with the way codes have been enforced in the past,” he added. “I just can’t see a clear path (from case to case).”

Commission member Craig Roble suggested this case could give the city an opportunity to begin being more consistent in the way codes are enforced.

“Just because we haven’t done it in the past doesn’t mean we don’t want to do it in the future,” Roble said.

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