The Newton City Commission continued its push for land development with an agreement to annex and zone property located at the Kansas Logistics Park.

The Newton City Commission continued its push for land development with an agreement to annex and zone property located at the Kansas Logistics Park.

The property, southeast of town, is directly east of the Newton Industrial Park on Spencer Avenue along the north side of Southeast 14th/12th Street.

The land currently is zoned as Harvey County agricultural, but will be reclassified as general industrial district. The city already had bought the land but needed a motion to annex the property.

Following a Jan. 4 meeting, the Newton /North Newton Area Planning Commission decided to recommend the annexation and zoning of the land to the Newton City Commission for consideration at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The commission unanimously agreed to annex the property then opened the floor to hear from citizens sitting in on the meeting.

Rural Newton resident Don Esch voiced a couple concerns to the commission.

Esch’s first concern was with increased railroad traffic that is likely to run through downtown Newton.

His second concern was with costs of the whole Logistics Park project and where money comes from to pay for the endeavor.

Regarding the possibility of increased train traffic, Vice Mayor Willis Heck said he hasn’t heard an estimate on how many trains there will be when Tindall Corp. begins its manufacturing operation at the Logisitics Park.

He admitted the movement of the large, concrete bases for wind turbines could require more train traffic, but said it’s too early to tell how much the impact will be.

Commissioner Ken Hall said he’s spoken with merchants downtown, who aren’t concerned with train traffic, but have talked about the potential for more customers with new jobs in the Newton area.

Commissioner Kevin Pouch said having to wait on trains in Newton is “a paradigm that we all have to accept.”

“The Newton rail system is why we’re here,” he said.

Esch said he felt it made more sense for the city to expand southwest of town, with immediate access to Highway 50 and Interstate 135.

Commissioner Jim Nickel said the state has recommended at least 100 acres for industrial development, as well as rail traffic. He added that “the railroad people are the ones who say the development needs to move southeast instead of southwest.”

Until more is settled with the logistics park, the commission won’t discuss much about funding. Newton Director of Public Works Suzanne Loomis pointed out that the city is looking at “all types of grant and loand opportunities and that development at the logistics park will ultimately pay for itself.”

“A great deal of planning has been part of the project over a period of time,” Heck said of the logistics park.

Along with annexation, the commission was unanimous in the decision to zone the land for industrial use.

After discussing land at the logistics park, the commission talked about another Planning Commission recommendation, which could lead to new recreation facility for the city.

An application from Three-Ply LLC is seeking to rezone a building used for storage from a General Industrial District to a General Business District.

Newton resident Carl Harris presented the plan for the facility. The proposed idea is to transform the storage building into an indoor sports competition center called “The Railyard.”

Work to be done on the building includes refurbishing, raising of the roof about 15 feet and adding space.

Harris handed out a booklet, which outlined the proposal for “The Railyard.” The structure’s location is near the athletic park and Fischer Field.

The city of Newton will not pay any of the costs for the renovation of the building. The risks associated with the project lie with the company involved.

The commission agreed to accept the reccomendation from the planning commission and granted the zoning amendment for the project to move forward.

The commission also:

• Accepted a resolution appointing the city clerk as the Freedom of Information officer.

• Received a petition requesting they ammend the ordinance prohibiting smoking in hotel rooms. Andy Gupta of Best Western Red Coach Inn spoke to the commission on the matter. Gupta claims he loses business by not having rooms available for smokers.

Heck said most of the large hotel chains do not allow smoking. A decision was tabled until the commission has a chance to discuss legal matters and health concerns of hotel employees associated with the issue.

• Approved a request from Horizon Milling for the use of the right-of-way over Broadway from an elevated walkway for private use. The walkway would connect Horizon Milling’s old facility to their new one on the southeast corner of Broadway and Pine. Horizon Milling facility manager Natalie Gosch presented the plan to the commission.

The commission had approved the construction of an uncovered walkway. The proposed walkway is covered and more secure.

The commission also discussed whether they could hang banners from the walkway or “do something more permanent.”

Sign possibilities with the walkway will be revisited in the consent agenda of a future meeting.

No safety concerns were brought up with the walkway. The proposed height is 36 feet, which is more than enough room required for semi trucks and emergency vehicles to drive under.

• Heard from City Manager Randy Riggs, who said the Library Board will be making a presentation Feb. 23.