The following commentary was submitted by Marcey Gregory, mayor of Goddard; Linda Ball, mayor of Cheney; Rex Satterthwaite, mayor of Bentley; Terry Somers, mayor of Mount Hope; Terry Spexarth, mayor of Colwich; Burt Ussery, mayor of Clearwater; and Randy White, mayor of Derby:
The Sedgwick County Commission will soon consider modifying a 30-year-old policy of having a city planning commission meeting occur for zoning cases in the county that are just outside the city limits of most cities in Sedgwick County (other than Wichita).
In 1985, the County Commission established the Zoning Area of Influence around most cities to ensure cities continued to have notification and some say in development occurring on their borders, much of which would affect public infrastructure and long-term costs to taxpayers.
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In June, on a 3-1 vote, the County Commission asked its Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to consider eliminating the policy. In July, the MAPC first held a subcommittee meeting and then took comments from affected cities. No city mayor, planning commissioner or staff member who testified favored elimination. We understood some of the concerns raised by commissioners and suggested middle-ground solutions.
To its credit, on Sept. 17, the MAPC voted 11-1 to modify the zoning policy after weighing the concerns of county commissioners and the 11 cities most affected. We urge the County Commission to listen to its appointed MAPC volunteers and to the many volunteer planning commission members and city officials who have worked hard to come up with a reasonable proposal for going forward.
In early discussion of this issue, the Wichita Area Builders Association supported opening this issue up “for discussion,” which was supported by a number of commissioners expressing a desire to have conversation and learn what those affected felt was acceptable and in the best interests of all concerned. The MAPC did what the County Commission asked it to do, and now commissioners should give serious and thoughtful consideration to its recommendation.
The Zoning Area of Influence policy provides a mechanism for informing neighbors about development projects and promotes healthy communication among builders, county residents and cities. Taking any action other than that recommended by its volunteers who have spent months considering this complex policy would be an unacceptable slap in the face and would confirm the perception that the County Commission is driven by political motivations instead of sound policy to improve governance.