The Barton County Commission Wednesday morning OKed a zoning amendment requested by the Great Bend Cooperative Association, paving the way for the co-op to build two large temporary grain storage bunks at Pawnee Rock.
The issue first arose last Monday when the commission learned Great Bend Co-op had started preliminary work on the project before the zoning matter had been resolved, a move that frustrated County Zoning Administrator Judy Goreham.
But, the action Wednesday solved that. “If you do approve the zoning amendment, they could start today,” Goreham said.
On Sept. 20, the Barton County Planning Commission held a public hearing to consider an application submitted the co-op to change the zoning classification from agricultural district to light manufacturing service commercial district on 13 acres GBC has leased from Mull Investments. It is located just east of the southeast corner of Pawnee Rock and will be the site of a pair of 130x380-foot, oval-shaped metal structures.
After much discussion, Goreham said the Planning Commission recommended it be approved.
Commissioners wanted to act on GBC request last week, but Goreham said there is a mandatory 14 day waiting period following a public hearing for a zoning amendment to allow people time to protest.
Goreham said the project requires the land to be rezoned. The Planning Commission changed the date of its September meeting in order to speed up the process since the
the co-op was anxious to get the project underway due to harvest.
Co-op officials said a bumper wheat crop and good fall harvests have created a storage crisis a their elevators. They needed something in place immediately, that is why they started prior to getting the green light.
But, Goreham said the co-op started the dirt work prior to the property being rezoned, much to her consternation. Goreham has officially noted the co-op was in violation of the zoning regulations for starting before the zoning amendment.
Goreham said Darcy Bowman was the only resident who attended the public hearing and she expressed concerns over truck traffic, road maintenance and noise.
Bowman, who lives across from the site, attended the meeting Wednesday. She said signs promised by GBC to redirect traffic flow had not been approved by the Pawnee Rock City Council and thus not installed.
And, she was still worried about the road and said a pit on the land will fill with water and be a mosquito hazard. “I just want to know how all of this is going to be taken care of,” she said.
GBC General Manager Frank Riedl said he understood Bowman’s concerns. Since the area corn harvest has wrapped up, grain dumped at the new facility will come from other GBC sites which are full.
Riedl said they would direct traffic to avoid as many streets as possible and assured Bowman they would have the signs in place come next fall. He also said they have hired a contractor to maintain the road on a weekly basis.
As for the mosquitoes, Riedl said they would develop a plan for that as well.
“I think they are trying to do all they can,” Commission Chairman Don Davis said of GBC.
“The co-op has done their part,” Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg said.
“I believe the co-op is going to do the right thing,” Goreham said. But, “the only problem is they started early. It’s just timing.”
She also noted that everyone involved on the county level did what they could to accommodate the co-op’s request.
Last week, Dennis Neeland, Great Bend Co-op operational manager, explained they will only accept grain from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Neeland said it will be seasonal, so there would not be traffic every day.
Goreham said GBC has a 10 year lease with the Mull family. The item had to be on the County Commission agenda no sooner than Wednesday since that was 14 days after the Planning Commission Sept. 20 meeting. So, the County Commission moved its agenda meeting, which would have been on Monday, to Wednesday.