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Despite opposition, city rezones land





Approximately 20 homeowners from the Wheatland Drive area made an appearance at Thursday night's Hays City Commission meeting, several voicing opposition to rezoning of three lots in their neighborhood.

Despite their opposition, however, city commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the rezoning of the lots from R-1 single family to R-3 two-family dwelling district. Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV abstained from the vote.

The three lots in question, located just south of the intersection of Wheatland Avenue and 22nd Street, were approved for rezoning at the Aug. 20 meeting of the Hays Area Planning Commission.

Jesse Rohr, planning, inspection and enforcement superintendent, told commissioners they had three options in considering the zoning issue: send the request back to the planning commission for further consideration, approve the rezoning request or deny the request.

He highlighted some of the considerations brought forward by the planning commission.

"One of the major ones was they took into consideration our current adopted comprehensive plan," Rohr said. "The plan shows the area as medium-density residential."

Les Wilson, a Wheatland Avenue homeowner, said he had several concerns about rezoning the area to accommodate possible development of duplexes.

"It's going to increase the traffic," he said. "It's going to make it unsafe.

"(Planning commissioners) say you can't prove it's going to bring down property values. I would say it does."

In addition, he said, homeowners couldn't be certain the properties would be properly maintained.

Commissioner Ron Mellick countered, saying there are no guarantees a purchaser of a single-family home on the same lots would hold to the current standards seen in the area.

"I could buy that lot tomorrow, and I can move in a manufactured home, a 20-by-40 with a certain pitch roof, certain siding," he said. "I could plant the whole front yard to sunflowers or irises, which has been done around Hays.

"And paint the thing Cornhusker red."

His view, Mellick said, is the homeowners are anticipating the worst, and rental properties within a neighborhood might not prove a detriment to the area.

"I can't see that the planning commission has made any mistakes from their minutes, from what city staff has shown us," he said. "Or that we have a legal right to stand in the way of it."

City Attorney John Bird said the commission should view its role as being quasi-judicial, not simply serving an administrative function.

"I'm not denigrating any way what the landowners have said," Bird said. "They make valid points for the reasons that they don't like this.

"The question is: Do those override the reasons the planning commission had for rezoning?"

Schwaller said the commission had done its due diligence in considering the issue, listening to the concerns of residents and recommendations of staff.

"We've looked at the findings," he said. "We've listened.

"We have researched it. This is the issue we hear the most of: I bought this land and put my home here and now something else is moving in next door."

In other business, commissioners:

* Voted 5-0 to authorize issuance of health care facility revenue bonds for St. John's Via Christi Health System.

* Approved 5-0 a resolution adopting tax and securities compliance procedures, the 2012 uniform public offense code and the 2012 standard traffic ordinance.

* Voted unanimously to allow the Hays Chapter No. 939 Vietnam Veterans of America to use land at Hays Regional Airport for a static Vietnam veterans' memorial helicopter display.

* Approved a bid from GW Keppel Co. for the rental of a KPI 4240 crusher.