County commission delays action on comprehensive plan

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER

The Marion County Commission Monday delayed approving the county’s new comprehensive plan calling into question methods to evaluate building sites and hoping for a more “people friendly” sense to the plan.


Commission Chairman Leroy Wetta said he didn’t want to undo all the work the County Planning Commission had put into the plan, or be adversarial to the planners, but he thought the county commissioners needed to do some fine tuning on it.


“I don’t want to be seen as just being critical,” he said.


The three commissioners agreed to put their desires for the plan in a letter to the planners by County Clerk Carol Maggard.


Planning Commission Chair Eileen Sieger said putting it in writing is precisely what the planners need to get it done the way the county Ccommission desires. She noted that the plan hasn’t been reworked since the 1970s, although it is subject to periodic reviews to keep it responsive to the times.


Commissioner Howard Collett said that although he wants to protect agriculture, as is currently done with the 40 acres requirement for a building permit, “we need a comprehensive plan that is a little less obstructionist, a little more promotional of human activity.


“Our plan really is slanted for environmentalists and big agriculture, anti-people. Our institutions need people to be revitalized. We need the movers and shakers, the little people who want to do something.”


Wetta added: “The people who have kids are the ones who buy small acreages to build. The old gravitate to the towns where the services are. If we want to revitalize our county, we need these younger people.”


David Brazil, county planning and zoning director who presented the plan to the commission, said the plan is more pro-development, especially for commercial interests in or around cities.


Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke said that in fine-tuning the plan the commissioners are doing “what we were here to ask you to do. This plan should match the county’s strategic plan we’ve already adopted. They should be dove-tailed to go in the same direction.”


Wetta questioned the clarity and validity of how land and site evaluations are tied to soil classifications and types in the plan. He noted that poorer sandy soil under irrigation might be of higher agricultural value than better soil areas that are chopped up by diverging streams.


“Topography and the nature of the surroundings may be more important than underlying soil,” Wetta said.


Brazil said the plan is used in combination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture soil survey to give more criteria to better define land use.


The commissioners, Wetta, Collett and Bob Hein, felt that road definitions and other factors in the plan adapted from the plans of other counties didn’t seem to adequately describe Marion County.


Sieger said the plan was developed with help from plans developed for other areas, “not dreamed up here,” and is only “a factor, a part of the process” in making a workable plan for Marion County.


Collett said the plan needed to be less arbitrary and generalized, and more specific to Marion County.


He said, “Zoning regulations should grow directly out of the comprehensive plan, and be seen clearly enough that we have no variations.”


Dalke, who also is a real estate agent, said persons moving to the county who want small acreages generally view even 10 acres, which is allowed as a building site in the county if it includes a former farmstead, as more than they want to take care of. She said five-acre plots are more desirable.


Wetta said, “We have to offer a place in the county, some area where perhaps there’s some development already, for more rural residential.”


Brazil said that where conflicts are allowed to develop between rural residents and agricultural interests, “the rural residents are going to win, especially in the courts. We need to look at some happy mediums.”


Sieger said, “If an inventory was to be done, you’d be surprised at how many small acreages are available in the county that do turn over often.”


In other business, the burning ban was extended another week until Jan. 16, but with a stronger demand for enforcement in place. Commissioners told Road and Bridge Director Gerald Kelsey that road crews are to radio for sheriff’s deputies when fires are sighted with up to $2,500 in fine possible against offenders.


The emergency management director was again empowered to end the ban if precipitation falls in the meantime.


Commissioners were required unexpectedly to approve spending $3,030 for courthouse boiler upgrading to meet new Kansas boiler inspection regulations.


The commissioners also voted 3-0 to commit $30,000 to a $119,900 potential project cost to be paid predominantly by state historical preservation funds if Maggard is successful in getting a grant for courthouse rennovation, to include masonry rejointing and repair, cleaning exterior stone surfaces, north entry repair and new Christmas light attachments.


Collett advised Kelsey that he has received complaints about the condition of Middle Creek Road from Antelope east. Kelsey said his department has determined that the road will need to be torn up, with rock base put back in to set a year for a base, and then sealed.


Commissioners approved 3-0 a bid from Cardie Oil to provide transport fuel of 5,500 gallons of diesel and 2,500 gallons of no-lead gasoline at a cost of $6,3245 compared to a bid of $6,461 from Cooperative Grain & Supply.


Dec. 31 meeting


The county-wide burn ban was extended once more to Jan. 9, but the Marion County Commission on Monday, Dec. 31, gave Emergency Management Direcfor Michelle Abbott-Becker authority to declare it over in the interim if precipitation falls.


Commissioners Bob Hein and Howard Collett both noted they are receiving inquiries from members of the public who want to burn trash or vegetation.


In a payroll and end-of-year finances session, the commissioners took time once more, as they have been doing weekly, to meet with their attorney, James Kaup of Topeka, by telephone in a 20-minute executive session on solid waste matters.


The session and the year ended with no announcements concerning solid waste. A spokesman for KC Development, the company operating the solid waste transfer station in Marion, confirmed the company has not received any of the balance it is demanding from the county in fulfillment of a contract over funds it has received from cities.


Hein nominated Oliver R. Unruh of Hillsboro to succeed Herb Bartel on the County Planning and Zoning Board representing the First District. Collett nominated David Mueller of Tampa to succeed Dean Fincham on the Board representing the Second District. Both nominations were confirmed.


Commissioners approved a bid from Cardie Oil presented by Kelsey for $4755.53 to provide 6,660 gallons of fuel in four road and bridge work areas.


The commissioners accepted a low bid of $1,187.50 to Ag Service of Hillsboro for 50 gallons of Pathway herbicide. Bill Smithhart, noxious weed director, presented an alternative bid of $1,190 from Markley Service at Marion.


Smithhart said 9.36 tons of household hazardous wastes had been collected during the year from various communities in the county. Some of the substances, such as paint or tar, are available to the public for no charge if they will come by his department.


Carol Maggard, county clerk, reported that Deputy County Clerk Rose Funk had successfully negotiated with hospital and surgical personnel to reduce the cost for surgery on a jail prisoner from $13,951.30 to $9,484.94. The commissioners commended Funk for thinking to negotiate and for her success.


The commissioners voted 3-0 to unencumber $1,300 from sheriff’s drug fund for the training of the drug dog and its handler.


They approved renewal of the club license for Marion Country Club, Inc., and a 2002 holiday schedule for the county with 11 closed dates.


Maggard presented funds to be reencumbered from 2001 which were approved by the commission, including $40,250 from the last four years for remodeling the clerk’s office, $3,825 from 1999 for computer equipment in the clerk’s office, $3,000 for file cabinets in the register of deeds office, $2,054 for payment on a lease-purchase of a suburban vehicle for the sheriff’s office, $278 for a podium for judicial.


Reencumbrances also included $12.223 for Emergency Management with $1,000 for printing the emergency plan, $2,100 for a laptop computer, $2,483 for a breathing apparatus and $6,000 for miscellaneous equipment.


Other funds encumbered from 2001 included $20,000 for a new ambulance, $2,000 for ambulance computer equipment, $4,000 for a security camera system, $3,000 for service fees on historial rennovation grant application for the courthouse, and $17,712 for fish and projects for parks.

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