Low-income housing plan moves forward

By Burk Krohe

Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board members on Thursday unanimously approved an amendment and final plat for apartments being developed as low-income housing.

Board members felt the project , located east of North Scenic Drive and southeast of the intersection of Stone Crest Drive and Stone Crest Court, was essential to the needs of the community.

Steve Zilkie, senior planner, said the amendment deletes 22 future townhomes and replaces them with two multiple-family residential apartment buildings and one common area with a playground.

The first apartment building will be 10 two-bedroom units and nine three-bedroom units as well as a leasing office. The second will have five two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units. Tenants will be required to meet either the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or HOME program income levels, which is generally 60 percent or less of the area median income.

The Manhattan Housing Partnership, Inc., a state certified non-profit community housing development organization, will manage the apartments.

John Ball, board member, was curious about the nature of low-income housing in Manhattan. Ball has previously served on planning organizations on the east coast, and said strictly low-income neighborhoods did not do well there. Ball said they often fell into states of disrepair and said mixed-income neighborhoods seemed to do better.

Officials from The Manhattan Housing Partnership said the area will have people from different income levels and noted their tenants take pride in their homes. They said, based on previous projects, the average person would be hard-pressed to pick a tax-credit home from a non-tax-credit home.

Phil Anderson, board member, said there is a great need in Manhattan for affordable housing. The rest of the board agreed.  Board chair Gary Stith termed the project “well designed and good for this area.”

Stith did say he would have liked to see more detailed plans for the playground, which will be located in the common area.

The board also unanimously approved moving to a public hearing on amendments to the Riley County zoning regulations pertaining to billboards, which the board referred to as “advertising signs.” Major changes include adding new requirements for such signs, clarifying the definition of such a sign, adding the definition for a “digital advertising sign” and amending uses in industrial districts and planned unit developments.

The new requirements limit the size of the signs and also the spacing in relation to other signs, residential districts and other property lines.

If the amendments are adopted, billboards would be limited to 12 feet in height, 30 feet in length or, alternatively, 360 square feet in area, per facing. Additionally, no part of a billboard would be able to extend more than 50 feet above the ground.

The minimum spacing between billboards would be 800 feet. They would also be no closer than 200 feet to a residential district and would be set back a minimum of 25 feet from all property lines and all right-of-way lines.

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