A while back the League of Women Voters asked Great Bend City Attorney Robert Suelter to discuss the three-mile zone around the city limits, which has been overseen by the city since 2000. The area has a mix of agricultural, industrial and residential uses.
“The city hasn’t come in and tried to impose its zoning regulations out there,” he said. Rather, it continues to use the “county zoning.”
However, when residents just outside the city limits disagree with how the land around them is being used, who can they turn to? Those who complain to their county commissioners are told, “It’s the City’s responsibility.” But, since they don’t live in the city, those residents aren’t able to elect a city council member to represent their interests.
The outcome probably would be the same no matter who oversaw the zoning. The changes that have taken place, sometimes over the protest of neighbors living nearby, were all allowed by the current zoning. In other words, people who live in certain areas may find their neighbors doing things that stir up dust or odors or aggravate them in other ways that are allowed and completely legal.
One- or three-mile zones around cities are not unusual. Fort Scott adopted a three-mile zone in 1974, over the protests of rural residents who complained that use of their land was controlled by city officials, but those affected couldn’t use their votes against city officials and had no voice in city affairs. The answer then, and now, was that the city was controlling the zoning, not annexing the land into the city, as a way to control haphazard growth of the city into the county.
Even so, are some county residents left with no representation?