Developers pull lake project

Staff reporter

Well, it's official.

Jim and Debra Whitfill have withdrawn their request for a café, cabins, and boat rentals at Marion County Lake.

Marion County Commissioner Dan Holub made the announcement Monday during the commission meeting.

Holub said the reasons for the withdrawal was the one-year limitation of use of the lake hall building for a private business and public dissension caused by the request.

The Whitfills were not willing to make an investment in the county property unless the lease could be for several years.

The commission expressed its gratitude to Wichita attorney Karen Humphreys for "shedding light on the subject" at the public meeting March 17, regarding a state statute that limits lease agreements with private enterprise on public property.

Marion County Attorney Susan Robson had checked with the Kansas Attorney General's office regarding the legalities of the county leasing property to individuals but evidently did not check the length of lease allowed by law.

During the meeting, the commission decided not to have the land that was to be developed for cabins surveyed.

Holub said he planned to continue to pursue cabins and boat rentals at the county lake.

He said that one of the questions that had been asked was "What is in this for the county?"

Holub said the question needed to be, "What has the county lost?"

He responded a lease that would have kept the lake hall occupied at least six months out of the year, tax relief, and insulation of one-half of the lake hall. Most importantly, another missed opportunity.

"Marion County seems to have a hard time discussing things and reaching compromises," Holub said. "Every time we start something, people come out to murder it."

Holub continued about opportunities that the county couldn't capitalize on that included a county landfill, casino, and new jail.

"Where are the missed opportunities the anti-casino people said were coming our way?" Holub asked.

He then referred to an advertisement placed by Hillsboro residents who rejected the jail issue but were willing to pass a bond issue for a new athletic field.

Most recently comments were made by trailer-dwellers at the county lake that they didn't want the cabins in "their backyards" because of theft and parties.

"We need to discuss topics and reach a compromise instead of digging a trench," Holub said. "We've been committing murder in this county for too long."

He was sorry about the hateful comments directed at the Whitfills and surprised about the negative reaction of the cabins.

"I thought this would be the one project the county could come together on but I was wrong again," Holub said.