Big Creek Improvement District resident Duff Watson said he was shocked to see that businesses and houses might be moving into a neighboring undeveloped area at Reservation Road and Logan Drive.

Watson’s home is in the improvement district and like many others who showed up at the Hays Area Planning Commission meeting earlier this week he was concerned about plans for a septic system for each lot and the potential contamination.

“We have quite a few people that are very concerned about this,” Watson said, noting “we’re having some flooding issues out there already.”

Ellis developer Doug Shaw is asking to rezone the 25-acre property southeast of Hays. It falls within the three-mile zone that is outside the city limits but that requires city approval. Shaw wants the zoning changed from agriculture to light industrial and residential suburban for an extension of the Big Creek Estates Addition. That residential addition was originally developed more than a dozen years ago.

Curtis Deines, the city’s superintendent of planning, inspection and enforcement, presented the plan to the Hays Area Planning Commission on Monday during a public hearing for the project. About 40 concerned residents sat wall-to-wall for the hearing Monday in the commission meeting room at Hays City Hall, saying the development’s covenants prohibit septic systems and businesses. Resident Larry Dinkel said any septic systems would be in the flood plain. 

“He (Shaw) made the covenants, and now basically he’s wanting to change the covenants in mid-stream,” Watson said. “We’ve already moved out there. People have built houses out there. Families out there. Money invested. And now all of a sudden let’s change the rules. Let’s put businesses out by your homes.”

Hays Public Works Director Jesse Rohr told commissioners at a previous meeting that extending sewer service from the existing Big Creek Sewer District isn’t possible because cost of a new lift station would be exorbitant.

Duane Kuhn, a board member for the Big Creek Improvement District for two decades, asked that the planning commission delay their decision, saying more information could be provided, including that Shaw knows septic systems aren’t allowed.

“Doug has the money and the will to put in the system that’s necessary, rather than septic, in that area,” Kuhn said. “We’ll fight this the best we can.”

The nine-member planning commission is an advisory body to the Hays City Commission. The planning commission can recommend for or against a project. From there projects go before the city commission, which can overturn a planning commission recommendation with a three-quarters vote. 

If the city approves the zoning change, Shaw would propose a plat showing lots, easements, a buffer zone and access roads. That preliminary plat would go to the planning commission, followed by a final plat. Plats are not considered when deciding zoning, Deines said. 

After hearing numerous residents speak Monday evening, the planning commission agreed to table the proposal until their next meeting Sept. 17. Not only do residents want to present more information, they said more details are needed as well from Shaw, who didn’t attend Monday’s hearing.

“We’ll be here the third Monday of September to consider it, unless the developer drops it,” Rohr said.

There are hurdles the proposed project faces if zoning is approved.

“Water rights for industrial use are required to have the approval of the state,” Deines said. “So if they use one gallon of water for a specific A-1 industrial use, they’d have to get that approved by the state.”

Because Big Creek Watershed is within two miles, the location doesn’t meet the criteria for industrial use, he said.

“So it would be pretty difficult to get that,” Deines said. “So it’s pretty much a no, but of course they have to go through the process and make that determination. 

There is an existing sewer system out there with Big Creek Sewer District, and the developer has looked at adding on to it, Deines said, but it’s not feasible. 

“The lines aren’t designed to go over that far,” he said. “So the infrastructure to make that work are cost prohibitive.” 

Road improvements aren’t planned either, Deines said.

“Reservation Road is already in terrible shape,” Watson said. He’s complained to the county and was told the road wasn’t designed for a community. Adding more traffic, cars and possibly trucks, will make the road worse, he said.