Nov 06, 2023

🎙🎥 City talks armory, apartment developments, storage units

Posted Nov 06, 2023 11:01 AM

Hays Post

Development of property north of Interstate 70 and in downtown Hays were top topics at Thursday's Hays City Commission work session.

WDG First Addition at 48th and Hall Streets, Hays.
WDG First Addition at 48th and Hall Streets, Hays.

The two plots at the west corner of 48th and Hall Streets are planned to be the site of a new National Guard Armory.

Commissioners agreed with earlier unanimous recommendations from the Hays Planning Commission to rezoning requests from property owner Werth Development Group, LLC, for changes from agriculture district to public and institutional district and light industrial district. 

They also agreed to move forward with the final plat of the WDG First Addition and annexation of the 54 acres into the city limits.

The commission will vote on the recommendations at a future meeting.

The development in downtown Hays would be a 48-unit apartment complex, constructed on property owned by the city at 10th and Walnut, former site of the train depot parking lot. 

Developer Michael D. Graham asked the city for a resolution of support to apply for $650,000 in moderate income housing grant funding administered through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation. 

Graham has also asked for establishment of a rural housing incentive district for the $5.8 million project. If the commission approves the resolution at a future meeting, the resolution moves to the Kansas Secretary of Commerce for approval.  The city would transfer property ownership to Graham upon approval of an improvement plan.

Graham has already developed a similar multi-unit housing project at Seventh and Oak and another is under construction at Fourth and Fort.

Jess Rohr, director of public works, brought forth several proposed changes in the city's unified development code.

The proposals involving indoor storage units, cul-de-sacs, and planned developments, are either reducing restrictive regulations or adding options for developers, Rohr said, and are supported by the Hays Planning Commission.

Current regulation only allows self-storage within the light industrial zoning district.

The suggestion to also allow self-storage units in general commercial and heavy industrial zoning districts, but only within the interior of an existing building, drew considerable discussion.

Attorney Chris Sook advocated for the policy change on behalf of his client Steve Pratt, whose office building just south of the corner of 13th and Canterbury is less than half full, even with the Kansas driver's license examination office in it. It formerly housed a bowling alley and the Bingo Haus.

"My client has tried many different iterations to try to keep that building full, and the reality is that's been a problem," Sook said. "So, we're talking about converting about half of the building into indoor storage." 

Commissioner Reese Barrick pointed out the locale could become a prime development site as the new high school and reconstructed middle school will open just east of it in a couple of years.

"Everybody will be coming into town that direction for basketball and football games," Barrick said. 

"We're crediting ourselves for thinking of the future and not just tomorrow," added Sandy Jacobs, vice-mayor.

Jacobs was opposed to including buildings along the Vine Street corridor, which she called an "entry to our city" that has seen aesthetic improvements.

Chris Sook, attorney. Photo by Becky Kiser/Hays Post
Chris Sook, attorney. Photo by Becky Kiser/Hays Post

Referencing the former Sears Hometown Store ,which stands empty at 2706 Vine, Jacobs asked Grow Hays Executive Director Doug Williams, "Doesn't that eliminate us from having property that's existing for incoming retail if it was allowed to be converted to storage?"

"It is a concern," Williams agreed with Jacobs.

"But you also have situations where the owner of a property can't rent it for whatever reason, and they'd like some way to produce a return on their investment," Williams continued. "So it's a bit of a tradeoff in that regard."

"If we eliminate a bunch of places like that for essentially a no-revenue stream for the city, aren't we putting us in a future state of loss of [sales tax] revenue?" said Mason Ruder, commissioner.  

"[Retailers] want to be on Vine Street. That's where all the traffic is at," said Shaun Musil, mayor.

There was also a discussion of the value of extending the life of aging buildings.

Kate Armstrong, Hays planning and zoning technician, said her office gets calls constantly about places to put storage units. "I wouldn't be surprised if the market dictated more of them," she said to the commission.

Eventually, commissioners agreed to allowing self-storage units inside existing buildings within the additional zoning areas, except for the Vine Street corridor.

The decision will be voted on at next week's meeting, along with recommendations to allow developers more flexibility and density in how planned developments are laid out, and to permit cul-de-sacs up to 650 feet in length.

Hays 2024 street maintenance plan
Hays 2024 street maintenance plan

The proposed 2024 street maintenance with $1.1 million in projects was presented by Rohr. 

The primary major rehab project proposed for 2024 is reconstruction of East 28th Street from Fort to Oak. A second major rehab is planned for the Main Street bridge in south Hays.