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Wamego rezoning issue sill not settled



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James Ebert wants to rezone this property in the 1600 block of 4th street to allow multi-family housing. photo by Beth Howell Day, The Smoke Signal.
August 06, 2014
James Ebert wants to rezone property in the 1600 block of 4th Street to allow for multi-family dwellings, but he's running into opposition.

The neighbors are against it and the planning commission has twice voted unanimously to deny the request – the first time when Ebert requested an R3 change and more recently when he changed the request to R2.

The R2 zoning request came before the Wamego City Commission at its regular meeting Tuesday night. The commissioners were given the option of agreeing with the planning commission and denying the R2 request, overturning the planning commission, tabling the issue or sending it back for further study, according to Merl Page, city manager.

Ebert told the commission that he really had nothing to add to what has been discussed. "I'd like to move it to R2 so I can make better use of the property," he said.

Britt Nichols, a neighbor who would be affected by the change, protested, citing safety, too many driveways, maintenance issues and property values.

"No one (in the neighborhood) is interested in R2 or something more dense," he said. "I'd ask you to uphold the unanimous recommendation of the planning commission."

Ebert spoke up again. "For whatever it's worth, if you go with the folks in the area, that's fine. It can go to weeds and grass. I'll let my grandkids grow up and take care of it. Thank you and good night," he added as he left the commission room.

After Ebert left, Commissioner Bill Ditto asked the protesting neighbors in attendance what their main fear was.

"I'm moving into an R2 in the next month or two," he said. "Several commissioners are in R2. Is the real fear low income, slum dwelling?"

Dave Mize answered. "My primary objection is one of timing," he said. "To increase the density in that area now, without changing streets, gutters and sidewalks drastically, is a safety issue. Don't take my word for it, ask the Post Office. How many times mail boxes need to be repaired? Also with the school kids. I don't think now is the time for it."

Nichols agreed on the timing. "We are jumping at the first plan," he said. "There is no sign this is a property that would develop. We've all invested time ad money. We're here because we like this place, but we want value, quality improvement and I don't think that's it."

He went on to offer to talk with Ebert and suggested that the city considered a PUD (Planned Unit Development) to look at all the issues.

Mayor Vic Enns was concerned that not all of the planning commission had voted on the second request. "Let's hear from all of them," he said.

"I would hope that maybe further study would enable a more cooperative effort between the neighbors and the developer," said Ditto. "I realize we all have concerns about our properties, we need to appreciate that, but it could be a bad homeowner or renter."

In the end, the commission voted to return the request to the planning commission for further study on a 4-0-1 vote with Commissioner Bob Morse abstaining.

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