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Commission housing project talks continue
Commissioners see HOI development as a city issue
commission HOI project
Barton County commissioners discussed the county’s involvement with the proposed Housing Opportunities Inc.’s Brynwood Subdivision (Cambridge Park) at their Wednesday morning meeting. The development is located beyond the southern end of Grant Street, just outside the Great Bend city limits. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

As the Barton County Commission continued its discussion on the county’s part in the proposed Housing Opportunities Inc.’s Brynwood Subdivision, which includes the Cambridge Park project, Fifth District Commissioner Jennifer Schartz summed up their role in the matter.

“Our involvement is very minimal,” she said.

The issue was added to the agenda Wednesday at the request of District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier. He wanted to further clarify the expectations placed on the county. 

Commissioners talked at length about the matter last week after it was brought up by District 4 Commissioner Jon Prescott. He’d attended a Great Bend City Council meeting earlier in the week where the development was addressed.

It was the consensus of the commission last Wednesday, as well as this week, that the fate of the project rests with the city.

“I appreciate all this information. This is stuff that we need to know,” said commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3. “I’m not sure why we’re even involved with it at this point, though, because this sounds like it’s completely a city decision.”

Starting as a low-income development, Cambridge Park would sit east of The University of Kansas Health Systems - Great Bend Campus and south of Walmart. The 24 acres are outside the city limits in Great Bend Township, but HOI seeks to tap city utilities, such as the sewer system, for the project.

Sunflower Diversified Services is partnering with HOI on the first phase of the three-phase initiative.

At issue for Great Bend is whether the city wants to annex the property or not, and if its heavily-used sewer lift station in the area can handle the additional load.

As for the sewer, the City Council awaits the installation of a monitor on the station to learn its capacity. The city has placed a rush on the monitor order and the hopes are that it will be installed within a few weeks.

The city’s call

Still, it is a complex issue. 

“It’s a city decision, but it involves so many entities because it’s not inside the city limits,” said county Environmental Manager Judy Goreham. “This is a great opportunity for the public to understand the process and for all of the different entities that are involved to understand the pieces of the puzzle. Right now we all have to work together or it doesn’t happen.”

The final steps in the process would be the commission and Register of Deeds Pam Wornkey signing off on the plat for the project.

“I think that’s really important because we have a really good working relationship with the City of Great Band and with all the townships,” Schartz said. “Even if we don’t have a vote in the matter, we still can be part of the conversation and either be supportive of them or at least be part of that team that makes decisions.”

“Our constituents have all said it. We said we need housing,” Prescott said, noting, however, they needed to “walk carefully” in dealing with the city. “So I’m pretty excited about the fact that this could be a housing solution for our community.” 

Schartz said she had visited with a council member over the weekend. They noted Great Bend hasn’t grown for some time, and they are “on the edge of some pretty great things.”

But, “we need to look at a bigger plan and because the county surrounds Great Bend and we have a pony in the race,” she said. It might be a good idea to form a joint committee and study what can be done.

“John, I appreciate your comment about how carefully we need to walk when dealing with the city,” Hutchinson said. “But I’ve received multiple phone calls from city council members that said you did exactly the opposite of that when you’re at their meeting, I’m very disappointed in your actions.”

A point of reference

To better understand the Brynwood Subdivision, County Engineer Barry McManaman brought up a previous project from three years ago, the still undeveloped Martin Meadows. Located on the west side of Patton Road in Great Bend, it is outside the city limits and within the city’s three-mile zoning jurisdiction.

Because of this, just like Brynwood, it had to go through the city’s Planning Commission, he said. He had to check for flood plain issues and Goreham had to authorize any water well or septic system applications.

However, the lots in Martin Meadows are at least three acres, which is the smallest a lot can be to qualify for a well and septic system, Goreham said. The lots in Brynwood are far smaller than that and would not qualify.

Linking to the city’s utilities would solve part of this, she said. But, they could never drill wells for irrigation.

In addition to the plat for Martin Meadows, McManaman said commissioners also OKed a resolution noting the township would be responsible for the road maintenance.

But, there is a difference, he said. The roads in Martin Meadows would be dirt, but in Brynwood, they would have curbs, gutters and concrete pavement. 

“That’s probably a tough chore for a township to maintain something that budget wise, or they probably don’t have the manpower and equipment to do it themselves, McManaman said. 

These could last 20-30 years, but, as shown lately, a heat wave can cause them to buckle and crack.

“There needs to be some involvement with the township, in my opinion, in these discussions,” he said. “Because if we’re ultimately going to say they’re a township responsibility that needs to be included.”

Should the city annex the land, it would assume the road maintenance and utilities. It would also remove the commission from the platting process.

But, the plat would still have to approved by Wornkey’s office.