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Woman halts Amherst changes single-handedly

By Corene Brisendine

A local resident won a one-woman campaign to halt a proposed change to the Amherst-Seth Child intersection Tuesday.

Jolene Hill, whose home at 2009 Amherst Ave. is close to the intersection, objected to a city proposal to seek a grant that would have added a southbound turn lane off Amherst Avenue. That proposal appeared likely to sail through because it was included on the “consent” portion of the meeting’s agenda, meaning city officials did not anticipate that individual discussion of it would even be required.

Hill said she would like the city to survey the traffic after the Kansas Highway 18 project opened the interchange to Miller Ranch, which is scheduled to be completed this year. She said she did not think the traffic was heavy enough to force the city to widen the intersection and the city should conduct a new survey before moving forward with the project.

City engineer Rob Ott said the project would not have begun until 2016, but added that KDOT required a proposal to be submitted within the next few days in order to be considered for funding. He also said a traffic survey completed at the intersection was done well before the K-18 Highway project began.

Even considering the impact of completion of Miller Parkway, Ott still felt the intersection at Amherst Avenue and Seth Child Road needed widening. But he acknowledged that if the commission did not want this project to move forward, the intersection of Tuttle Creek Boulevard and Ehlers Road also needed improvements.

Commissioners took the “out” Ott had provided, agreeing to substitute the Tuttle Creek Boulevard/Ehlers Road improvements proposal.

Taco John’s

The commission approved the building of a Taco John’s near AnyTime Fitness in the north-end downtown redevelopment district 5-0. Although commissioners unanimously approved the building, they were concerned with traffic congestion associated with the drive thru. Brad Waller, project manager for Taco John’s, said the traffic associated with the drive thru was no different from most other fast-food restaurants in town.

Commissioners were also concerned with semi-trucks gaining access to Best Buy because the traffic is required to travel through the proposed parking lot at Taco John’s, which could block that access during peak times. Waller said Best Buy does not receive more than four trucks a month, and those would arrive during “off hours” and not be impeded by Taco John’s peak business times.

 

McDonald’s

Commissioners told the local owner/operator of the McDonald’s on Third Street they would be willing to approve a proposal to tear down the building and build a new McDonald’s next to the roundabout at Fourth Street.

Clark Linders, who owns the franchise, is seeking city permission to vacate and move the alley between Bluemont and Vattier as part of his relocation proposal, which would also require rezoning lots at Fourth and Bluemont from residential to commercial use. Linders already owns the lots on Fourth Street between Bluemont and Vattier.

One problem is that vacating and moving the alley requires permission of two other property owners in that area, one of which Linders has been unable to contact. Commissioner Wynn Butler objected to the idea, saying he had heard from the other two property owners on the block.

The commission did agree to create a Transportation Development District to pay for street improvements and relocation of gas and water lines in order to facilitate the building of the new McDonald’s. The TDD would add a half-cent sales tax within the district to pay for the infrastructure changes. Jason Hilgers, assistant city manager, said it would take less than 10 years to pay for the changes at a half-cent.

Howard Johnson, McDonald’s building project manager, said they hoped to have everything approved as soon as possible so they could tear down the old building and have the new one completed over the summer. That would allow it to be open in time for students returning in the fall. Hilgers said timing and public acceptance of the project would dictate when the work could begin. He said to remove the alley, a public hearing would have to be advertised and conducted. That had a minimum requirement of 20-day waiting period to give the adjacent property owners a chance to respond to the changes.

The proposal must also go through the planning board process and the city would have to hold two readings before work could begin, but city staff was willing to work with McDonald’s corporation in putting together a timeline of how long that process would take. There was no formal action taken.

 

Corridor plan

Commissioners also unanimously approved the incorporation of the Eureka Valley Highway K-18 Corridor Plan as part of the Manhattan Urban Area comprehensive plan. Although commissioners voted 5-0 to incorporate the plan, Butler asked city staff to clarify that its adoption did not mean city commissioners were required to approve building within the 100-year flood plain.

Eric Cattell, assistant director for planning for the city, said any building in the flood plain would be regulated through building codes, and they were currently working on revising those codes as part of the comprehensive plan. He said the current regulations required builders to create “one foot of free board,” which means the builders must raise the foundation to one foot above the flood plain before construction can begin.

Cattell said any changes to those regulations would be enforced whether the plan shows building in the flood plain or not. Butler said the city had not previously taken into consideration what “filling in” the flood plain would do to the runoff of storm water, and the city should simply “cease and desist” allowing building in flood plains. Cattell said city commissioners will get a chance to approve or reject changes to the building codes this summer.









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