Re-zoning in rural Hesston drew some heated discussion from the Harvey County Commission at a meeting on Monday, as a resolution was brought before commissioners to approve the shift of property near the intersection of Mission Road and Dutch Avenue from an agricultural zoning district to a rural single family zoning district.

Discussion on this land stretches back over numerous commission meetings in recent months, but the topic was officially brought before the county commission as an action item this week after the re-zoning was officially approved by the Harvey County Regional Planning Commission.

In order to help facilitate the sale of a home on an approximately 73-acre tract of land two miles west of Hesston, the re-zoning was proposed to help break the tract up into multiple parcels. Commissioner Randy Hague saw it as a workaround to the 40-acre rule in place in Harvey County and a means to "bail out" a homeowner who did not think about the resale potential before initially building on the land.

According to Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell, "nobody ever does" think about resale, and she noted subdivisions are variances allowed under the current 40-acre rule, though Hague still saw issues with the current enforcement.

"This is done all the time anymore, so I don't know why we have it on the books," Hague said. "People want to move out in the country; let's let them move out in the country."

Hague made a motion to abolish the 40-acre rule and replace it with a five-acre rule, but there was no second from the other commissioners, with commissioner Chip Westfall pointing out that the planning commission has a subcommittee currently working to clarify the rules and regulations on housing in the rural parts of the county.

Abolishing the 40-acre rule is not something the planning commission is reportedly looking into at this time and commission chair Ron Krehbiel noted his opposition to the idea as well. Westfall, like Bell, pointed to the allowances provided under the current statute (i.e. subdivisions, clusters, etc.) and noted that there are numerous plots under 40 acres that exist in the rural part of the county.

Given the variances allowed for under the 40-acre rule, a motion was made to adopt Resolution 2017-12 to allow for the re-zoning of the tract near Mission and Dutch. It was approved by a 2-1 vote, with commissioner Hague opposing.

In other business, the county commission:

Discussed some cases of vandalism at the county parks and asked Parks Director Kass Miller if there are any measures that could be taken to deter that, like placing cameras in certain areas.
Was notified of the date (Aug. 5, 2017) for the Harvey County Free Fair parade and asked about participation, with the commissioners agreeing to have a vehicle in the event once again this year.
Learned of a regional transportation meeting for Harvey and Reno counties that will be hosted in Burrton from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, with county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber requesting RSVPs if any commissioners would like to attend.
Received a notice of public hearing in Reno County scheduled for July 5 to discuss the replacement or permanent closure of a bridge on Woodberry Road — near the county line. It was noted at a previous meeting that the bridge is officially the responsibility of Reno County.
Was presented with an email from the Kansas Department of Transportation seeking input from members on its plans and the sharing of federal funds. Swartzendruber noted that commissioners should inform him if they would like to include any comments in a formal letter.
Heard an update from the Council of Governments after the cancellation of its last meeting and a scheduled hiatus until September. Willis Heck provided a summary of what would have been covered, with Swartzendruber stating the meeting was not held with the understanding that Sheriff Chad Gay and Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy were continuing the collaborative work of the drug task force in coming to an agreement with the other county police chiefs, though Swartzendruber admitted he was still hoping to address the idea of sharing some sales tax revenues among the cities to help fund an additional position. It was also noted that commissioner Hague will serve as chair of the Council of Governments starting next fall.
Approved the recommendations for appointment of commissioner Krehbiel (Harvey/McPherson County Community Corrections advisory board) and K. Rosella Arellano (Harvey/Marion County Community Developmental Disability Organization), waiving the second reading for both.
Approved the employment agreement with county appraiser Craig Clough for four additional years.
Discussed continuing talks on the issue of insurance for a potential archery range at East Park, with commissioner Westfall alerting Miller to expect a call about the potential installation of a gun range as well. Miller also noted a successful weekend at the parks and good turnouts for both the horse trail scavenger hunt and Open Mic Music Festival.
Learned of plans from Gay for the sheriff's office to continue bike patrols at East Park this coming holiday weekend following positive feedback received on the initiative.
Heard an update from assistant county administrator Dan Bronson that talks are ongoing with the city and local law enforcement on potential development of the joint law enforcement center.
Approved a hearing date on the 2018 budget for 10 a.m. July 10 and set the maximum amount of revenue to be drawn from the ad valorem tax at $12,462,530 for Harvey County (which would equate to an estimated mill levy increase of .535 mills, according to Swartzendruber).