City Commission seeks policy on residential developments

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The City of Fort Scott might be moving toward creation of a policy outlining how commissioners will determine whether to provide taxpayer-funded improvements to residential housing developments.

Commissioners John Keating and Barbara Wood said at Tuesday's meeting they would like seeing a clear policy spelling out exactly what the city would do for developers and what criteria would have to be met.

Commissioners requested that city staff gather background information on what other cities' policies are regarding the support of residential development. City Manager Richard Nienstedt compiled a survey detailing policies of 17 Kansas and Missouri cities.

The decision to gather the information stemmed from the commission's vote Sept. 19, denying a request by real estate developer Greg Schick to pour about $10,000 worth of concrete to finish a cul-de-sac at Williamsburg Subdivision in Fort Scott. In response, Schick said their decision amounts to "cherry picking" when it comes to approving or denying assistance to developers in constructing property, according to a Fort Scott Tribune article on Sept. 21.

Commissioner Nick Graham said at Tuesday's meeting he is reverting his vote on Sept. 19 from voting against Schick to supporting his proposal.

When conducting the survey, Nienstedt talked to city managers and administrators who said they've backed off urging elected officials to approve projects for residential improvements, rather deciding on case-by-case basis.

"The prevailing philosophy would be that what they'll (other cities) try and participate and show the city is trying to move the project forward," Nienstedt said.

Fort Scott has fallen in line with that philosophy by deciding to assist residential development on a case-by-case basis.

For example, several years ago, in a coordinated effort with Bourbon County Rural Water District No. 2 the city helped to install about $20-25,000 worth of water hydrants and enlarged a series of water lines in The Meadows housing addition south of Jayhawk Road and west of Horton Street.

The benefits of assisting The Meadows development, Nienstedt said, were that someday the city will annex the land and the city won't have to install the water lines or hydrants.

Nienstedt also said a few years ago the city hooked up sanitary sewer lines in the Williamsburg subdivision off of Horton Street because "we felt that was important to get that finished."

"All this is tied to if you feel this could benefit that development," Nienstedt said.

Keating said the commission tries to base its decision on whether to support development based on facts and figures on how it will positively impact the community.

He suggested city officials might discuss the issue with leaders from other cities at the upcoming League of Kansas Municipalities conference.

On Tuesday, Nienstedt said at this point he is gathering input from commissioners on possibly drafting a policy.