Cities want say in their ‘zones of influence’

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER & DON RATZLAFF
Another player in the debate about rural development are the cities of Marion County.

Representatives from the cities of Marion and Hillsboro in particular have focused on the three-mile “zone of influence” as it pertains to county-wide proposals.

Susan Cooper, Marion city development director, said at the March 5 meeting of the county commission, “We don’t want to control the area, but we do want to be a part of the decision process in an advisory capacity to the board of zoning.”

Steven Garrett, Hillsboro city administrator, said at the same meeting that Hillsboro isn’t necessarily concerned about its influence extending for three miles, “but we would like to see proper development that would have building codes apply in areas that might become annexed.”

Garrett noted that a major cost to Hillsboro in bringing the former AMPI plant into the city in recent months was bringing previous construction to code.

Cooper said Marion’s concerns would extend south and east to Marion County Lake because that appears to be a natural corridor of expansion for the city. She said Marion is cut off from expansion to the west because of the Cottonwood flood plain.

Commission Chairman Howard Collett said the cities might share in developing housing inspections and approvals in areas of urban influence, especially in any rural subdivisions that might parallel a city.

At the March 10 commission meeting, Garrett asked if small-acreage residences created any problem for agriculture in Marion County now. He suggested that since farmers originally sold the land, they must be aware of the situations created.

David Brazil, the county’s planning and zoning director, said the only problem area is in the southwest portion of the county, where inheritance subdivided farms, and sales into small acreages further subdivided it. The results has been odd-sized acreages that are difficult to work around.

Garrett said that even in that area, development was driven by natural circumstances and economics. He suggested the county might create problems by “artificially protecting” the land for agriculture or “artificially” making areas for development.

Collett said much of the real problem has been that the region grew from pioneer days with taxes resting on the agricultural base. But now, with farmers struggling to make a living, some of that has to change.

“If importing commuters’ salaries into the countryside is the way to bring more income to the county, we need to look at change so as not to be too restrictive on building sites,” Collett said.

“I agree,” Commissioner Bob Hein said.

Commissioner Leroy Wetta said as long as development could be kept orderly, so that areas didn’t grow up to look “like dogpatch,” they would expect Marion County to attract a growing number of commuters to work centers like Wichita.

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