City Commission sees extended debate on possible housing expansion


The primary debate points of Tuesday night’s Manhattan City Commission took place during the public comments portion on the discussion of the proposal from Charles Grier, Manhattan resident, to purchase 920 square feet of land from the city of Manhattan on a tract of land that also includes the structure known as Landmark Water Tower, in order to allow for a possible residential expansion.

Grier had previously taken his proposal to City Administration and the Historic Resources Board and had submitted an application to the Board of Zoning Appeals request for its consideration of the project, after which making modifications to his initial plans regarding the other boards’ recommendations, according to a City Commission agenda memo. City Commission was to determine the city’s selling of the land, but the final decision was also dependent upon the BZA’s decision on his application.

Mayor Wynn Butler stated the city administrators handled the case properly. Since Landmark Water Tower is not an official historic landmark, Butler said passing the proposal to the city commission was the correct move. Bill Raymond, city attorney, said the city was within its rights to sell the property if it chose to do so.

Despite these statements, organizations such as the HRB and the Manhattan/Riley County Preservation Alliance expressed opposition to Grier’s proposal, despite the fact that Grier had made modifications HRB had requested. Representatives stated reasons such as the city disregarding the water tower’s significance to Manhattan and the nearby community and emphasizing the fact that it is known as Landmark Water Tower, even though the water tower is not an official national historic landmark.

The commissioners had not voted on the proposal by deadline, as debate from supporters and opposers of the proposal continued an extended debate.

City Commission also discussed the rezoning of a vacant tract of land at the intersection of College Avenue and Vaughn Drive. The proposed rezoning would turn the vacant lot into a parking lot to be used for staff and visitor overflow parking by Mercy Regional Health Center.

Manhattan Urban Area Board recommended approval, and the motion of approving the first reading of the ordinance was passed 4-0.

Next on the agenda was the first reading of changes to Manhattan’s floodplain zoning regulations. Concerns about the effects of the new zones on previously existing houses and potential new pressures to purchase flood insurance were discussed, with Butler noting the difference between recommended and mandatory actions of those affected by the newly zoned floodplains.

Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board recommended approval, and the motion to approve the first reading was passed 5-0.

The third agenda item was a request for economic development assistance from Colbert Hills Foundation in the form of $100,000 for four consecutive years to help Colbert Hills Golf Course cover costs. Karen McCulloh, city commissioner, requested more specific details about how the assistance would be spent, and the motion was passed 5-0 to a request for further review.

The final item on the agenda was Grier’s proposal.