By BECKY KISER
The next steps toward developing more multi-unit housing in Hays were taken Thursday during the Hays City Commission meeting.
Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution of support for Michael D. Graham Rentals, LLC, Hays, who has requested the city apply for $650,000 in moderate income housing grant funding from the state for construction of a 48-unit apartment complex. Only cities or counties with populations less than 60,000 are eligible to apply for the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation grant program.
An award decision for the grant is expected by mid-January.
The application requirements also included a resolution regarding specific housing needs for rural housing incentive district financing. A 2021 analysis done by the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute of Public Affairs in 2021 found a shortage of quality housing in Hays.
Graham estimated the district would generate $1.2 million over the 25-year term, which would be made available to reimburse the developer for eligible costs. Those costs would be about $572,000.
The project would consist of 36 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom units and be located on city-owned property at 10th and Walnut, site of the former railroad depot parking lot. Eventually, the property ownership would be transferred to Graham, who is currently building a similar project at Fourth and Fort in Hays.
"I'm excited thinking of the growth with the variety of housing we saw tonight, and potentially being able to move forward with the changes we've made [for developers]," said Alaina Cunningham, city commissioner. "I think that just helps us continue to move in the right direction."
Three amendments were agreed to the unified development code, two of which directly impact developers with new options.
Now allowed is reduction of setbacks and minimum lot size in planned developments to allow for increased density and allowing cul-de-sacs up to 650 feet in length.
The third amendment to the unified development code reduces restrictive regulations for indoor storage units.
Self-storage units are still allowed in heavy-industrial zoned areas, and they will now also be permitted in light-industrial zones.
Self-storage units will also be allowed in general commercial areas with the following conditions:
• Interior accessed units only
• Existing buildings only
• No storage units located north of Interstate 70 or on properties with Vine Street frontage or with direct access from Vine Street
Commissioners had a lengthy discussion at their Nov. 2 work session about storage units on Vine. They expressed concerns there would be fewer buildings available for new businesses, which could generate more taxes for the city.
"Whenever cities make an investment in infrastructure — sewer, streets, water — it should be viewed as an investment. And there should be an expectation of return on investment. That's what helps keep taxes low," said Toby Dougherty, city manager.
"The return on investments is sales taxes, property taxes and jobs. And unfortunately, storage units provide the least of those."
Commercial development north of I-70 along Hall Street is also moving forward.
Commissioners approved recommendations from the planning commission to rezone 54 acres from agriculture to public and institutional district and light industrial for the Werth Development Group, LLC, Hays.
The final plat for WDG First Addition and annexation into the city of the two tracts of land at the west corner of 48th and Hall Streets as the site of a new National Guard Armory.
Dougherty told the commission of progress this week of the R-9 Ranch long-term water supply project in Edwards County.
"The administrative law judge convened the water transfer proceedings on Monday morning and formally ended the hearing, closing the process," Dougherty said.
"So, the judge now has up to 90 days to issue his ruling on the proposed transfer. Once his ruling is determined, the hearing panel has up to 90 days to ratify or modify that ruling.
"We are progressing," Dougherty said.
In other business, commissioners:
• Heard an annual update from Fort Hays State University by Tisa Mason, president
• Heard an update on the recently approved Common Consumption Area in downtown Hays by Collin Bielser, deputy city manager
• Heard an update from the new Youth Leadership Advisory Board