The Hays City Commission on Thursday approved three changes to city development policies, all of which scale back regulations.
Commissioners praised the staff recommendations, saying the city should “get out of the way” as much as possible in efforts to boost development and reinvestment in existing properties.
“I really appreciate that you’re coming and asking to not regulate as much. It’s very nice to do that,” Vice Mayor James Meier said. “It’s not a surprise, either. I think over the past two years, that’s what I’ve seen from city staff. If they can get out of the way, they want to get out of the way.”
Rear and side setback requirements were reduced for commercial and industrial properties in the city’s Unified Development Code, which will enable developers to maximize buildable space.
The commission also voted 4-0 to adopt a policy regarding “large lot” developments in a 3-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction in rural areas of Ellis County surrounding city limits. The buffer is intended to protect potential areas of municipal growth.
The policy calls for considering large lot developments — defined as at least 2 acres — in outer reaches of the 3-mile zone where the city of Hays does not anticipate major growth. Certain areas, such as directly east of town, are excluded due to possible city expansion.
The policy is intended to provide guidance for decision-making, but developments still will be considered on a case-by-case basis. All developments in the extraterritorial jurisdiction must be approved by both the Ellis County and Hays city commissions after being vetted by the Hays Area Planning Commission.
While large lot developments typically have not been encouraged near city limits, a few residential developments have been constructed. An example is Stonewood Estates west of Hays, which has 16 lots of approximately 4 acres each.
In comparison, the same amount of land within a city subdivision holds 227 lots and generates significantly more tax revenue, Public Works Director Jesse Rohr said.
A concern with large lot developments is the potentially high cost of installing city infrastructure if it ever becomes necessary -- a cost that would benefit a relatively small number of taxpayers, Rohr said. The policy is intended to identify areas where future annexation is unlikely.
City and county staff worked together in drafting the policy, and the Ellis County Commission is expected to discuss the matter Monday.
A second change to the Unified Development Code also was made to allow construction of breezeways, which are structures covered by a roof but open on the sides to connect a home to accessory buildings.
The structures had not been allowed under city regulations, and the change was requested by a resident. City staff and the planning commission recommended allowing breezeways.
“Those words are really important — getting out of the way,” Commissioner Sandy Jacobs said. “I think the things you brought forth are really good. We appreciate that. Anytime we can make things easier for our citizens, the better off we are.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting:
• Mayor Shaun Musil said he has heard from residents who are upset the city of Hays is not showing interest in a possible Tyson chicken plant that could come to Kansas. Musil said the reason for that is a lack of available water resources. The plant would be expected to use much more water than the total annual water consumption for the entire city.
• Commissioners approved installing sidewalks at a few city parks and restaining wooden structures at Hays Aquatic Park. They also expressed interest in adding additional water attractions to the swimming pool.
• Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV was absent.