Decision on MPO expected Tuesday

By The Mercury

Manhattan city commissioners will be asked to select a map with a budget option, setting the boundaries for a mandated regional planning organization Tuesday. Commissioners will also consider rezoning a portion of land, planned to be developed as a hotel, just north of Aggieville. The meeting will take place at City Hall at 7 p.m.

Recently, Manhattan qualified as an urbanized area due to population data from the 2010 census. In accordance with federal statute, that means the city must create a metropolitan planning organization. The new organization is meant to ensure that federal transportation funds are spent responsibly through regional collaboration. It will be overseen by a policy board made up of local officials and a Kansas Department of Transportation official.

However, commissioners first need to officially decide on the bounds of the planning area. Commissioners Wynn Butler and John Matta prefer a smaller map including Manhattan and growth areas in Riley County and Pottawatomie County. Mayor Loren Pepperd and Jim Sherow favor a larger map including Junction City, Fort Riley and Geary County, and Commissioner Rich Jankovich seems to be on the fence but leaning toward the broader option. Officials from Junction City and Geary County also support the larger map.

The size of the map will affect the size of the policy board and the organization’s budget. The board is of particular importance in that it will develop several documents that will guide the organization. Commissioners will also need to select a host agency to house the organization.

A “metropolitan transportation plan” will outline the region’s transportation system goals and priorities over the next 20 years. It identifies the current state of the region, where it should be in the future and how to get there. It will be updated every five years. But the “transportation improvement program,” which implements immediate projects identified in a broader plan, might be the most significant of the documents. It lists all federally funded and regionally significant projects and implements the immediate projects. It is to be updated every four years.

The federal government will provide a grant to establish the organization but it requires a minimum 20 percent local match. According a city memo prepared for the meeting,  the city’s projected five-year local match for the broader map is $262,245, of which $23,929 is projected for 2013. City officials noted the amount is not budgeted but could paid from savings, surplus sales tax revenue or from reimbursements expected from the Office of Economic Adjustment in the Department of Defense through the Flint Hills Regional Council.

Also Tuesday, Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board previously approved a recommendation to rezone a preliminary development plan that would bring a hotel to the northeast corner of N. Manhattan Avenue and Bluemont Avenue. Planning board members felt the project would complement Aggieville as well as Kansas State University.

Board members also made a separate recommendation, which was unanimously approved, that the proposed PUD be a part of the Aggieville Business Improvement District.

The original development plan called for a four-story hotel with 72 rooms, which would take the place of four two-story multiple family houses on the corner of N. Manhattan and Bluemont. The amended project calls for a four-story hotel with a partial fifth floor and 111 rooms. It will take the place of the four multiple family homes as well as a two-story 18 dwelling unity apartment building at 1212 Bluemont.

The partial fifth floor will have meeting spaces, and the ground floor will include two small retail spaces, a model hotel room, a fitness room and an indoor pool. There will be structured parking on the north side of the building with access from N. Manhattan avenue and also a level of underground parking with access from the alley. The two lots will provide 123 off street parking spaces.

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