ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Unable to find solutions to parking and fairness issues, the Hillsboro City Council voted at its Nov. 21 meeting to deny the construction of a new drive-through service lane along Main Street as proposed by Emprise Bank.
By a 4-0 vote, the council voted to deny a recommendation from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to approve the project, which would involve the removal of the former barber shop building owned by Emprise.
In the end, the key reason for denying the project was the loss of seven parking spaces on the south end of the east side of the 100 block of North Main-including the loss of both spaces in front of a neighboring business, Prudent Tours.
Council members had previously expressed concern about approving a project that benefits one business to the detriment of another.
At their Nov. 7 meeting, council members had asked for a determination whether the loss of seven parking spaces would be legally required for such a project, or simply the preference of the architect. The hope was that fewer parking spaces would be required.
Between meetings, City Administration Steve Garrett released a response from the city engineer saying that the specified turn radius was not a legal requirement. The city could approve a shorter turning radius, but the city could risk being legally liable in case of an accident.
At last Tuesday’s meeting, Councilor Len Coryea asked City Attorney Dan Baldwin what his advice would be.
“The position you do not want to be in is to be named in a lawsuit going against your own experts,” he said. “Whether or not the design we come up is flawed is a matter of opinion. There is no minimum footage requirement that I know of.
“If you design something flawed enough, certainly the city can be party (to a lawsuit). But where that line is, none of us will know (until the court makes a judgment).”
That said, the council’s vote to deny the plan soon followed-but with expressions of frustration from council members about not being able to find a “win-win” solution.
During the discussion, several council members and the mayor mentioned the issue had generated more public input via phone calls than any other issue they had dealt with.
Bob Watson, Emprise senior vice president, said in conclusion: “Obviously we’re disappointed in the decision. I know it was a difficult decision. There were very valid points both ways.
“I appreciate all the time that was spent studying the issue. I respect the decision, so I guess we’ll go back to the drawing board and see if we can come up with Plan B.”
After discussing a proposed job description for volunteer firefighters for the city’s personnel manual, the council approved wording that would make residential requirements for fire department volunteers the same as is required for ambulance volunteers-five minutes from the station.
The original language stated volunteers should “be residents of the city, or reside within the Hillsboro fire protection area.”
Mayor Delores Dalke noted that not all of the current volunteers live within the fire protection area. She also wondered whether mutual aid agreements currently in place with adjacent departments could be construed as being part of the local department’s fire protection area.
Coryea was concerned that the wording about residential requirements not discourage people from volunteering. In the end, he voted against the recommendation in a 3-1 vote.
In other matters, the council:
— presented awards via the League of Kansas Municipalities to Jeanie Hellman for 10 years of service as a city employee and to Mike Duerksen for 30 years of employment with the city.
— interviewed representatives from three companies wishing to be named the city’s insurance broker: IMA, M&M and the Insurance Center of Hillsboro. A decision will be made at the Dec. 5 meeting.
— authorized the mayor to sign documents to accept a loan of $373,000 via the Kansas Department of Transportation for street work to be done on the 300 and 400 blocks of South Adams.