Commission changes rural residence minimum to 3 acres

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Rural residential homes may be built on as little as three acres across the county under new directives the Marion County Commission decided Monday to include in a letter to the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

That letter is required to be ready for final approval next Monday after a 3-0 vote by the commission.

Commissioner Dan Holub seized upon the first lull in the meeting to say he “wanted to go back to zoning” even though it was unscheduled on the agenda.

Holub said he wanted more development in the county as soon as possible, and was tired of all the delays caused by those trying to stay with earlier interpretations of the county’s comprehensive plan and people “defending positions.”

He said he wanted immediate action on new zoning rules suggested by Jim Kaup, the county’s consulting attorney in Topeka.

These rule changes would include allowing landowners to sell any-sized plot from an abandoned farmstead as long as water and sewage requirements could be met.

The changes would also allow such things as charging a one-time road-impact fee on a new rural residential permit with a suggested range from $500 to $3,000, depending on what might be needed to locate a house.

Holub said he also wanted to see a definition of net density of homes on the land that would more nearly fit his own, saying, “I look at it one way while they look at it another way.”

Formerly, a density of one home per 40 acres had been the practice; Holub wants to see a net density of one home per 40 acres on a 640-acre section, or 16 homes per section-which in practice could all be located in a single smaller tract.

Holub said he wondered why five acres was becoming the small-acreage rule discussed in Marion County when the state approves three acres.

“I’d like to see three acres everywhere as long as sewage and water requirements can be met,” he said.

“So, you say instead of five acres, you want three?” asked Commission Chairman Bob Hein.

“Yeah,” said Holub. “Why five instead of three? We say in the plan we want to conserve (agricultural) land. Why take the extra two acres that can be used by agriculture?

“I want to review multi-home issues more, the mini-village-maybe 30 acres with 10 homes.”

“McPherson (County) has three (acres zoning),” Hein said.

Planning and Zoning Director David Brazil said once “you get to 10 houses” the state starts looking at requiring the formation of an improvement district.

“Below three acres, you start changing zoning,” Brazil said.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said control measures on three- or five-acre plots should include requirements for a home to be built within a certain length of time.

“We don’t want speculation and we don’t want hodge-podge development,” Dallke said.

Holub said, “I’d also like us to look at rural land being bought up for hunting.”

Brazil said that as far as he knows, there are no zoning controls when land is bought for recreation as long as there is no home or business-for-pay involved.

Holub said, “We have to stay consistent here. We say we don’t want to take ag land out of production. They’re taking crop land out of production, putting grass on it, and not grazing cows. The only production it has is people walking across it in the fall for bird hunting. That lowers the tax base.”

Later in the meeting, before approving the minutes from last week, Dallke said he wanted added to the minutes that during zoning discussions, Eileen Sieger of the Planning Commission had said people who couldn’t afford 40 acres probably couldn’t afford to buy a home.

“It’s a direct quote from a public meeting and I want it in there,” he said.

Sieger said she did not say that, and that her comments only had to do with avoiding entrapping people in improvement expenses that neither they nor the county could afford.

Auditors’ report

Dallke said he wanted county department heads and employees all to sign off on reading the county auditors’ report that pointed out accounting procedures that could lead to ethical and money-handling problems.

County Clerk Carol Maggard suggested a September meeting for going over things such as credit-card uses and policies.

Progress on old landfill

Brazil and Jack Chappelle, consulting engineer working on closing the old county landfill southwest of Marion, said inspectors with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment are pleased with closing plans and the dirt cover being applied to the landfill by Unruh Excavating.

Chappelle said the cover includes 36 inches of higher clay soil and 12 inches of topsoil from cover dirt taken from county-owned land at the site.

There was some difficulty this week in locating where solid waste under old fill stops, said Chappelle. He said the difficulty may have been due to working with several engineers in the past, and won’t result in price increases for engineering now.

But, he said, there probably will be some increase in dirt costs as a result with larger volumes needed.

Sink holes in old dirt cover need to be filled in and compacted, Chappelle said, before final contouring work is done.

He suggested that to save money, the county’s own road and bridge personnel be used for the work. Chappelle said road and bridge could also put a roadway around the landfill for checking monitoring wells.

Road and Bridge Supervisor Jim Herzet said the filling work probably will be done with a scraper.

Chappelle said the commissioners should be considering how they will use the landfill area once its cap is complete.

Publishing the budget

Maggard said it is suggested by the state that counties budgeting more for the following year than the current year publish it for public information. Marion County’s 2006 budget includes more money, but that is due to increased valuation rather than to a mill-levy increase, she said.

The commissioners voted to publish the budget even though Maggard said doing so was not mandatory.

Maggard said she has written to Michell, Morris and Chase counties to see if any of them have an interest in sharing county appraisers.

Park & Lake concern

Dale Snelling, park superintendent at Marion County Lake, told commissioners that big trucks-some of them loaded with cattle and silage-are putting some unusual wear on the road around the lake.

He is particularly concerned about a small stone arch bridge near Kingfisher Restaurant that is included on the National Historic Register. Snelling said the bridge was reappointed with new concrete in the past few years, and now a boater has observed particles falling from it when a heavy truck went over.

Snelling said the water under the bridge is 10 feet deep.

Other business

The commissioners approved sale of a used county ambulance for $501 to Roxanne Wallace by a vote of 2-0 with Dallke abstaining due to conflict of interest.

Woody Crawshaw of Emergency Medical Services reported 83 ambulance runs for July-nine from Florence, 24 from Hillsboro, 31 from Marion, one from Marion backup, 14 from Peabody and four from Tampa.

There have been 581 runs for the year, including 12 transfers, 10 cardiac, 23 medical emergency, six standby, two motor-vehicle accident, nine falls, 13 no-transports, six turnarounds and two other.

Crawshaw verified for Dallke that no billings can be made for turnarounds and no-transports. Turnarounds are when the ambulance is radioed to return without completing a trip, and no-transports occur when service is refused upon arrival.

Road and bridge contracts for 19 miles of 2-inch overlay at an estimated cost of $1.4 million will be let Sept. 1.

Mike Olson, consulting engineer, said the estimate is based on costs close to $60,000 a mile-an increase since last year when $50,000-per-mile was used and the overlay on 13-mile road came in under estimates at $43,000 a mile.

Olson said he hopes the estimate will be higher than actual cost again so that a total figure of $1.2 million is closer to reality.

He said much of the cost has to do with oil prices, and some contractors are concerned with a shortage of road oil. Olson said it has been rumored that Kansas contractors may have to go to Oklahoma for product.

The commissioners recessed for lunch, then reconvened to interview a candidate for county appraiser.

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