The Barton County Commission and Great Bend City Council Monday took steps to make legal the maintenance of the streets in a small, northwestern Great Bend subdivision.
In meeting at the courthouse Monday morning, the commission opened the small stretches of Coolidge, Taft, Truman and Third streets that fall within the Villa South area. This neighborhood sits north of Second Street and west of McKinley Street, across from the City of Great Bend’s new Sports Complex. That facility falls within the city limits, however Villa South does not.
However, the stretch of Stretch of Second Street (which is also outside the city) that serves the area remained in limbo until the council met Monday night. The council approved an agreement to allow an easement on Second, paving the way for the county to open it as well.
The County Commission’s action
“We’ve been discussing the opening of roads in Villa South for some time,” County Administrator Richard Boeckman said. Boeckman said area residents could have petitioned the commission to open the streets, “but that is a tedious process.”
The other option was for the commission to open them by a motion, and that is what it did.
“This has nothing to do with annexation,” Boeckman said. The move calls for “maintenance of the existing roads only,” which would preclude any other action.
Commissioner John Edmonds asked the residents at the meeting Monday if this is what they were seeking. They said it was.
“I think we are doing what is wanted,” Boeckman said. The township representatives present also liked the proposal.
As for Second Street, Boeckman said county, city and township officials met last Tuesday to discuss the matter. “We worked out an easement,” he said.
This arrangement includes a strip of city land within the easement, including a portion of the sports complex. The city is granted a similar deal as the residents in that the county will not disturb the city’s property.
Boeckman has said this is an easement on paper only and has to be in place just to satisfy the law.
An easement was also granted by Mark Ball of Lasting Life Ministries. Property adjoining the organization’s Central Kansas Christian Academy on the north side of Second just off McKinley also falls in the area needed for the 60-foot right-of-way.
The City Council’s action
City Attorney Bob Suelter told the council Monday night the city was reluctant at first to go along with the easement because of a possible impact on city property. Getting stuck with having to pave Second Street or other with other maintenance duties were among the concerns.
But, the agreement reached precludes that. “They’ll leave us alone and we’ll leave them alone.”
Why are easements an issue?
For years, the Great Bend Township has maintained the sand streets. Concerns about this maintenance brought some of the neighborhood’s residents to the Barton County Commission meeting last Monday morning.
Through their research, county officials discovered the township employees were trespassing because the roads had never been opened and thus had no legal standing, Boeckman said. Since there are no legal roads, the land belongs to the area property owners and there were no easements to allow the work.
Easements are permission from a landowner allowing a governing body to use a portion of private land. State statute requires that in order for a street to be opened, it must include a 60-foot easement, but doesn’t specify how wide the street has to be or what path the street takes through that 60-foot right-of-way.
Coolidge, Taft, Truman and Third streets had plenty of right of way and were not a problem, Boeckman said. However, with an easement of only 50 feet, Second Street was legal mess.
To increase that easement the requisite 10 feet would mean either going south of Second (which would take in a portion of the Sports Complex, a new fence and a city maintenance building) or north (which would take in the lawns of those who live in Villa South).
Monday’s action by the council allows for the easement to include the 10 to the south within the city (fence and all). The county will not disturb the city’s facilities.
Now, Boeckman said the commission can act on opening Second. This will likely happen at an upcoming meeting.