By CRISTINA JANNEY
After a bitter battle at the Ellis County Commission over the zoning for a local campground, the project has been resurrected.
The Ellis County Commission denied a conditional-use permit for C2T Ranch to expand its campground and add an event venue.
C2T Ranch is 14 miles north of Hays at 1202 Saline River Road.
Since May when the C2T Ranch's request was denied, Chad and Cynthia Tuttle, owners of the ranch, applied and received certification as an agritourism business.
This designation is an allowed use under the Ellis County zoning regulations, which means the Tuttles do not need to apply for a conditional-use permit to pursue expansion of its campground, said Mason Ruder, environmental planning supervisor.
Chad Tuttle said he thought this was precedent-setting for the county.
"It's going to be a major change for Ellis County, and we are finding that a lot of other counties are having to go through this big change too," Tuttle said. "We are now advocating at a state level for counties to recognize agritourism operations, which are very broadly defined — much more broadly defined than (Ellis County Commissioner) Butch Schlyer would have you believe."
The county commission denied a similar request by the proposed Buckeye Barn event venue for a conditional-use permit in February. This proposed venue would have been 6 miles north of Hays and just east of U.S. 183 on Buckeye Road.
It was also to be built on land that is currently zoned for agriculture.
Hays Post asked Ruder if the development with C2T would change the status of the Buckeye Barn project. He said he was not sure. That business would also have to apply for agribusiness status with the state to fall under those regulations.
Hays Post reached out to Buckeye Barn applicant Leann Zimmerman, who had been a vocal opponent of the C2T project. No response was received at the time this story was posted.
Ellis County Commissioner Dean Haselhorst and Commissioner Neal Younger, who both voted against the C2T's conditional-use permit, expressed concerns about safety at the campground during the May commission meeting.
They said they were worried about how the campground would be evacuated in the event of flooding. The campsites are along a portion of the Saline River.
Haselhorst also expressed concern about fire danger.
Haselhorst said C2T Ranch needs to comply with the regulations that are in place. He kept his comments short as he was suffering from a cold.
Younger said he did not wish to comment further on the project other than to say he hopes that no dangerous incidents arise at the campground.
Tuttle explained aspects of the campground's emergency plan to the commissioners at the May county commission meeting. Some aspects of this plan include a water tanker available to use in fire suppression, an early warning emergency system for campers that uses cellphones and a storm shelter.
The Tuttles will still have to follow all state water and sewer regulations, Ruder said, including regulations that govern structures built in a floodplain.
Chad Tuttle said the campground is still dealing with water supply issues. He and his wife have not decided if they intend to regularly test water-quality on their well or to tap into rural water.
Tuttle said the campground will not fall under water quality regulations until it starts serving water to 25 people or more per day.
The Tuttles have said they would like to offer meat bundles to their campers from the ranching side of the operation. If they do, they would have to follow Kansas Department of Health and Environment guidelines, Ruder said.
Disputes over hunting, angry neighbors
The Tuttles are still in a dispute with Majestic Whitetail, which is partially owned by Jason Brin.
Brin argued against the permit for the campground at the county commission meeting, saying Majestic Whitetail has a hunting lease on the property that excludes the Tuttles from using the land for any other recreational purpose.
Hays Post contacted Brin for a comment on this story, but he had not responded to questions by the time this story was posted.
Other neighbors also argued against the permit at the county commission meeting expressing concerns with trash, sewage disposal and traffic.
The Tuttles have already completed nine primitive camping sites of the 12 that are planned, two camping sites with electrical hookups and one glamping site.
Tuttle said he hopes to add another glamping site and four more powered sites by fall.
Tuttle said he still plans to build a platform that will be used to mount a large tent that could be used for weddings and other events, but he does not anticipate that project will be completed until spring 2022.
SEE RELATED STORY: C2T Ranch north of Hays seeks to expand campsites, add event venue.
Tuttle said the campground has remained busy through the summer. Campsites can be booked through the Hipcamp Ap. The glampsites can also be booked through Airbnb. You can learn more on the ranch on C2T's website or Facebook page.
Charges are still pending against Cynthia Tuttle for an altercation immediately following the May county commission meeting.
She made a first appearance on charges of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct on July 13, according to court records. She is free on bond, and her next court appearance is set for Aug. 24.