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The request is dust in the wind
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When the Great Bend City Council meets Monday night, it will take up an issue months in the making. It’s an issue that drew two petitions from residents in the southeast part of town and may force two council members to recuse themselves from voting.
The agenda includes a request for rezoning and a special-use permit made by Concrete Services, owned by council member Dale Westoff, for the company lots near Second and Hubbard streets. However, some living in the area are concerned by the dust kicked up by trucks belonging to Concrete Services and a disposal pit on the property.
The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. The requests are items number nine and 10.
According to the agenda, the application for the rezoning was recommended to the council by the Great Bend Planning Commission. The request involves lots at 1701 and 1721 Second Street.
Concrete Services wants the properties changed from C2 (commercial) to LMCS (light manufacturing/service commercial) and the special use permit. This would allow the company to operate a Redi-Mix facility at the site with a pit designed to catch cement run-off from trucks being rinsed.
Under the permit, Concrete Services would take steps to lessen the dust problem, such as planting vegetation, paving the parking area and install irrigation.
However, said Great Bend Assistant City Administrator Dawn Jaeger, the matter is not that simple.
For the past couple years, there have been complaints from residents about clouds of white dust creating a nuisance and a health risk in the area. Then, in January of this year, Jaeger became aware of the washout pits.
The pits, she said, were not permitted and in violation of city ordinances. On Feb. 3, she contacted Concrete Services and told the company that the city would not take punitive measures if the company stopped using the pits and started the permitting process.
Concrete Services agreed.
So, the issue was referred to the Planning Commission for its Feb. 27 meeting. Jaeger said 14 residents showed up for a public hearing and told about problems with blowing dust. With this input, the matter was tabled.
It next came up at a special commission meeting March 12. Residents were present along with their Wichita attorney.
No action was taken, but commissioners discussed balancing the needs of the residents with the needs of the business.
The commission next met March 26 at which there was another public hearing on the zoning question. The attorney spoke, bringing up problems with groundwater contamination, not dust, Jaeger said. None the less, the commission voted to forward the request to the City Council with a recommendation it be approved.
In the intervening months, Jaeger said the city learned the residents have entered into a class-action lawsuit against Concrete Services. The city is not involved in the suit.
There is another wrinkle. Since public petitions were filed, state statute requires the measure be passed by three-quarters vote of the council. That means seven of the nine members have to approve it.
Westoff will more than likely step aside since his company is at the heart of the matter. New council member Marty Keenan is the local attorney working with the residents and referred them to the lawyer in Wichita, so he may step aside as well.
There are some unknowns on the council so Jaeger said approval is far from certain.
If it fails, Westoff can come back with separate requests for each property. Or, there could be additional legal action.