Conversations are ongoing between the City of Hays and Ellis County as the two governments are seeking to work together to address ongoing zoning concerns in the area just outside of city limits.

Specifically, Ellis County commissioners have expressed interest in reducing the 3-mile extraterritorial zoning radius surrounding the city, and contracting with the city for part-time building code enforcement.

Initial conversations have taken place between City Manager Toby Dougherty and County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes, Dougherty said at Thursday’s Hays City Commission meeting.Those talks are expected to continue, and ultimately proposals will be brought before both commissions.

“I think if they’re actually committed to doing it, we can work with them,” Vice Mayor Shaun Musil said. “It would be in our best interest, but we have to have a commitment on their side.”

Dougherty said the city could contract for additional enforcement services, but likely would need to hire a part-time employee. The county would be billed for their services to help offset that cost, and the employee could absorb other city duties to help current employees, he said.

The county currently does not have building code regulations. Enforcement in the 3-mile zone would benefit both governments, Dougherty said.

“It’s in the city’s best interest if there are buildings outside the city limits in our immediate growth areas because that ensures the structures being built in that area are ready to be annexed in at a future date when the city grows into it,” he said. “And that is one of the biggest barriers to cities’ growth is areas built up that aren’t suitable for the city standards when they grow into it.”

That issue will be taken back to the county commission for a definite commitment before the city proceeds with hiring another staff member.

The 3-mile zoning radius around the city of Hays was established when the county adopted zoning regulations in 2007. If counties do not have zoning regulations, cities are legally allowed to maintain a 3-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction, Dougherty said.

When counties — such as Ellis County — do have zoning regulations, the county government is not mandated to allow an extraterritorial jurisdiction, but can agree to do so.

Rather than reducing the entire radius by a set amount, officials have been drafting a proposal that reduces city jurisdiction in some places while protecting key areas for future growth, Dougherty said.

“Right now we have a map that we think achieves what the county commission’s trying to achieve but protects our growth areas,” Dougherty said.

That map will be brought before the Hays Area Planning Commission in July, then come to the Hays City Commission for consideration in early August.

In other business Thursday, the Hays City Commission:

• Voted 4-0 to renew the city’s commercial insurance policy.

• Heard an update regarding the city’s water conservation efforts and rebate programs. For more information, see Sunday’s Hays Daily News.

• Heard an update regarding the city’s change application for water use from R-9 Ranch near Kinsley.

Commissioner Lance Jones was absent.