The Hays City Commission on Thursday expressed support for securing an option to buy a 91-acre tract of property near 27th Street and Commerce Parkway.

Purchasing the property could allow the city to facilitate development in the area. There is infrastructure nearby, and the property could be conducive for retail, commercial or business park development.

Vice-Mayor Henry Schwaller IV said owning the property could be “an ace to hold” if an ideal development opportunity comes forth and needs to move quickly.

“One of our concerns is that we really would like to see more growth in Hays, not only in retail development but in housing and jobs,” Vice-Mayor Henry Schwaller IV said. “We know that because we are landlocked on the west with flooding issues and we’re landlocked at the south, the best path for growth is both north and east. This parcel is at a very affordable rate and it’s developable.”

The asking price of the land is $800,000.

The city has been offered an exclusive, irrevocable 18-month option to purchase the land for the amount of $50,000 down. The city manager already has paid $15,000 of that amount to secure the land while commissioners discuss making the purchase.

The commission will consider authorizing payment of the remaining $35,000 to secure the option at Thursday’s regular meeting. If the city chooses to buy the property, the $50,000 down is credited toward the purchase price at a prorated amount. The city could get credit for the full amount if the commission acts quickly.

If the city makes the payment to secure the option then chooses not to purchase, the $50,000 would not be refunded. The option is offered to give the city time to consider the opportunity without the risk of another buyer closing the deal first.

Several commissioners spoke in favor of securing the option, then continuing discussions of whether to make the purchase.

The city commission last month also voted to hire a retail recruiting firm — Alabama-based Retail Strategies — to help identify development opportunities and bring more businesses to town.

“The timing is very good … with Retail Strategies. That will be very interesting,” Commissioner Sandy Jacobs said. “I just can’t find any piece of it that I don’t think is a good thing. I use Salina as an example. When I drive up and down 135 at Salina, there’s four exits you can get off ... and once you’re off, you’re moving through the other areas. I don’t see why that can’t happen in our community.”

Also at Thursday’s work session, commissioners heard an update of 2017 water conservation rebate programs. Commissioner Chris Dinkel was absent.