Ellis County commissioners at Monday’s meeting spoke in favor of several possible steps that could be taken regarding administration of zoning regulations. Among the issues discussed was the city of Hays’ 3-mile extraterritorial zoning radius.
The 3-mile area is governed by the city’s zoning regulations. Ellis County Commission Chairman Dean Haselhorst requested staff to identify possible changes to the area, citing concerns about a lack of enforcement.
Haselhorst spoke in favor of reducing the 3-mile radius to 1-mile, but that issue should be discussed with city officials, County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes said. The county would have the authority to reduce the area.
“I think that needs to be reduced. The city of Hays doesn’t enforce it; we don’t have anybody out there to enforce it,” he said. “I’m thinking 1 mile in my opinion.”
The city of Hays is charged with zoning and subdivision enforcement, but not building code violations, in the 3-mile radius.
The extraterritorial area was established in 2007 to accommodate potential future growth of the city. Discussions between city and county officials likely will be ongoing, Smith-Hanes said.
For now, county commissioners will send a written memo asking the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission to update subdivision regulations to address immediate concerns such as platting of private streets in new subdivisions. Another concern is a requirement that subdivisions have at least eight lots.
“If you’re pursuing a policy of preserving the rural character of unincorporated Ellis County, then subdivisions of fewer lots might make more sense than subdivisions of more lots,” Smith-Hanes said.
The subdivision regulations were adopted in 2006 and have not had significant revisions, despite the county implementing a comprehensive plan in 2012.
A third possible change would involve hiring an employee or contracting with an existing agency to provide an enforcement officer for zoning regulations, both in unincorporated rural areas and extraterritorial regions surrounding Hays and Ellis.
Currently, there is only minimal zoning enforcement involving the most serious violations in unincorporated areas.
The cost of creating a new employment position likely would be more than $60,000, Smith-Hanes said.
Commissioners spoke in favor of speaking with city officials to see if the county could contract with an existing city department to fill any gaps in enforcement.
The process of examining these issues and making any changes could be lengthy, Commissioner Barbara Wasinger said.
“We don’t need a quick fix,” she said. “We just need to make sure it’s fixed and get started. There’s no time like the present. It will take longer if we just say, ‘Don’t do anything.’ ”
In other business:
• Commissioners heard a report regarding storm damage from tornadoes May 8. For more information, see Wednesday’s Hays Daily News.
• Health Administrator Butch Schlyer presented a monthly report.
• Commissioners entered three executive sessions to discuss non-elected personnel issues.