After nearly two years of work, the Pottawatomie County Commission Monday approved an updated comprehensive plan by a vote of 2-1.

“Plan Pottawatomie County 2040” is designed to be the guiding policy document for the county for the next 20 years on a wide range of topics such as land use, transportation and preservation of agricultural land.

It replaces a comprehensive plan completed in-house in 1993.

“It took some work to get where we needed to be, but I’m happy with the way it’s turned out,” said Stephan Metzger, assistant county planner.

The plan was recommended Thursday with a 6-1 vote by the Pott County Planning Commission, according to Metzger.

Commission Chairman Travis Altenhofen voted against the plan, saying it was too expensive and too vague.

“I do appreciate all the work, but $158,500 and 119 pages later, what do we have?” Altenhofen questioned. “None of us has a crystal ball of what Pott County’s going to look like in 2040. Things change, that’s why we have elections every four years.”

A more concise 10-year plan conducted in-house that included specific projects would have been more useful, he said.

The process of updating the comprehensive plan began in September 2017, when the commission approved the Texas firm of Kendig Keast Collaborative to guide the process. The firm is also working with the Manhattan city government on its unified development ordinance (UDO), which will update the zoning and subdivision regulations and consolidate them into one document.

During the ensuing two years, the firm gathered public input on what the county should look like in the year 2040. The process included surveys, open houses and meetings with specific stakeholders.

In other business Monday:

• Appraiser Lois Schlegel reviewed scheduled property tax appeals before the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA), including a Dec. 12 hearing with MKKM Properties, which owns the shopping center with Academy Sports and several other retail outlets on the east side of Manhattan.

The county has appraised the property at $12.6 million and MKKM is seeking to have the value lowered to $3 million, according to Schlegel.

The appeal is part of a nationwide movement called the “dark store theory” in which large “box stores” claim their properties are appraised unfairly.

“This is a nationwide thing going on and it’s not going to end any time soon,” Schlegel told commissioners. “It’s a big deal. It’s a very big deal.”

In Johnson County, Walmart stores are prepared to take their appraisal cases all the way to the Supreme Court, Schlegel said.

If the “dark store theory” gains acceptance, it could result in a dramatic shift in the property tax burden from large commercial enterprises to residential properties, Schlegel said.

• Metzger reviewed Part 2 of the Green Valley Neighborhood Plan, a companion piece to “Plan Pottawatomie County 2040.”

The second part of the plan addresses land use, growth scenarios, future growth patterns and street connectivity in the rapidly-growing southwest portion of the county.

The planning commission is expected to consider the neighborhood plan Sept. 18, after which the county commission will act on the plan.

• Hal Bumgarner, director of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), said last Tuesday’s groundbreaking of the new Blue Township ambulance station/sheriff’s office substation was well attended.

Dirt work on the new station on Green Valley Road began the following day, he said.

Bumgarner also reviewed a full-page letter complimenting Pott County EMS for its professionalism in two separate incidents.

“It’s easy to pick up the phone to complain, but it takes effort to write a full-page letter to compliment you and we appreciate that,” Bumgarner said.

• Jennifer Merrow gave an update on activities in the Emergency Management Department.

Merrow is expected to replace Chris Trudo, who is retiring next month as emergency management director.

• Counselor John Watt said a hearing is scheduled for Sept. 18 in Pott County District Court on a condemnation action for a temporary construction easement near the intersection of U.S. 24 and Green Valley Road.

During the hearing, the judge will appoint a three-person team to determine the value of the property to be used during improvements to the intersection.

Bids for the project are expected by the end of October, according to Peter Clark, public works director.