After a somewhat discombobulated start Monday, the city planning and zoning commission unanimously passed a rezoning application that paves the way for Dollar General to come to town.
City council could give final approval to the change at next Monday’s meeting.
The meeting opened with the swearing-in of new commission members Jim Rippe and Kenny Rogers, bringing the membership to five.
Within minutes, Rippe, a seven-year veteran returning to the commission after a two-year hiatus, was elected chair, and immediately set the context in which the rezoning public hearing would take place.
“When we consider this request, we are limited to simply deciding if that is an appropriate zoning classification for that property, not particularly what type of business may or may not go onto it,” he said. “We have to consider it in a very generic term, because our limitation is to decide if it’s appropriate for a business there, and not what type of business. We cannot limit that in this type of hearing.”
However, before launching into the hearing, Rippe questioned whether property owners within 200 feet of the property had been appropriately notified, specifically noting the cemetery, which owns the property across the highway and which was not notified.
“The cemetery district, being separate from the city, should have been notified in writing,” he said.
Rippe contended that the property to be rezoned bordered on the highway right of way. He said a Wichita planning and zoning consultant advised him that, in essence, the width of the highway and right of way aren’t to be counted in the 200-foot radius, making the cemetery’s property subject to notification.
“That throws us into a standstill until that happens correctly,” he said. “We will be required to set another date, notify everybody correctly, we will have to republish, and hold the public hearing at another date.”
What happened next was a sometimes frenzied and confusing attempt to determine whether the state still owned the south right of way or if it had been turned over to the city. If it belonged to the city, the hearing could proceed.
Tyler Oliver of Colby Capital Real Estate Development, developer of the property, asserted Kansas Department of Transportation had deeded the right of way to the city.
“South of the highway, that huge strip has now been dedicated back to the city,” he said. “It goes way past ours.”
“There’s a map from the piece of land that KDOT annexed to the city to appease their deal,” council member Rick Reynolds said.
For the next 15 to 20 minutes, searches and contacts were made to try to obtain a copy of that map, while discussion continued on the question.
A site map was produced, which proved confusing to some to interpret, but then Oliver discovered an email from Joe Palic of KDOT that detailed not only that a quitclaim deed had been executed to turn the property over to the city, but that the department required Dollar General’s entrance to be at least 300 feet from the highway.
Commission members agreed that the meeting could proceed, and with no members of the public present to speak on the issue, they proceeded with their deliberations.
After assurances that the section of Prairie Lawn St. leading to the Dollar General entrance would be paved and that utilities would be available for the store to hook up to, a motion to recommend rezoning the property from agricultural to general business was passed unanimously.