Green Valley residents list careful planning and another bridge to Manhattan among their development desires.
More than 150 people attended a town hall meeting Tuesday night to give feedback on development east of Manhattan in the Green Valley area. The area is a part of Blue Township along Green Valley, Excel and Lake Elbo roads in Pottawatomie County between Manhattan and Wamego.
A Fort Riley Joint Land Use Study identified Green Valley as an area that could see significant growth in the next 20 years. According to the study, the number of homes in the area has increased by 157 percent since 2006, adding more than 2,000 new residents. Officials believe the Green Valley area will likely surpass Wamego as the largest community in Pottawatomie County.
Pottawatomie County assistant planner Stephan Metzger said Wednesday that county planning and zoning staffers are reviewing the responses from the meeting. He will compile the data regarding people’s preferences, as well as include their recommendations for county commissioners, consultants and the public to view.
“If there is a desire to change the way that (the Green Valley area) is operating now, it’s only going to get more difficult as more folks move out there,” Metzger said. “The problems that the folks identified last night are only going to be exacerbated as more businesses, more residents and more everything moves to that area. That’s really one reason why we might want to look at doing something now if there’s a desire.”
Residents dispersed into small groups where they voted and discussed possible recreational, commercial, residential and transportation changes in the area. They also debated whether the county should continue to pay for public services in the area.
The “governance” plan identified six options to provide infrastructure and services to Green Valley that will internalize the costs for those who will benefit most from the changes.
The options included annexation into a neighboring city, incorporating Green Valley into a new city, creating an improvement or special district, giving more control to the existing Blue Township or writing more land-use regulations.
Groups had the opportunity to write comments and questions regarding what type of governance they preferred and recommendations on land use, recreation, public services, and transportation and traffic.
One breakout group said there is not enough infrastructure in Green Valley right now to deal with the area’s growth. However, they questioned whether the area’s growth has become stagnant.
“Last year and this year there are so many ‘For rent’ signs in Manhattan,” resident Margie Juergensmeyer said. “It’s overbuilt already.”
Metzger said he doesn’t think the project is relying too heavily on the anticipated growth of nearby communities like K-State, Fort Riley or the upcoming National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.
“I think it’s one of those things where you plan for what could go out there, and if something comes in less than what you planned for, then you’re still in good shape,” he said. “We’re relying on (growth), but we’re also using that as a tool to guide our thinking and our planning.”
Juergensmeyer also pointed out that in Europe, for example, planners develop residential areas around public transportation rather than vice versa, a model she thinks the development here can benefit from.
“When you’re building, incorporate public transportation first,” she said.
The group also suggested adding another bridge from the area to Manhattan to reduce traffic in case of accidents on U.S. Highway 24, increasing pedestrian and bicyclist access along main roads, and including more grocery stores and gas stations.
Metzger said there will be more opportunities for community input as officials narrow options and do more research based on responses.
“It’s a huge (issue),” he said. “It’s something a lot of people care about that affects a lot of folks who live there and so we want to try and do it the right way.”
The studies and work are funded by a grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment as part of the Fort Riley Joint Land Use Study. Implementation of the recommendations will not be covered by the grant.