City Commisson meeting sparks debate

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The Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board recommended the approval of a motion that would upzone approximately 3.5 blocks extending toward Bluemont Elementary School for more intense use, but one planning board member spoke out against the plan at the Manhattan City Commission meeting Tuesday evening.

The member, Phil Anderson was unable to attend the meeting in which the Urban Area Planning Board proposed the plan and voted 5-0 in favor of it. Anderson said he was against approval of the plan.

“I’m opposed to the upzoning that is being presented,” Anderson said. “We do not need to encroach on Bluemont Elementary in this way. The Comprehensive Plan is 2035. This is 2016. We seem to be rushing this.”

Some commissioners said they agreed the plan was being rushed, but others wanted to move forward with the Comprehensive Plan, which describes the city’s plans between now and 2035. This plan was approved in March of 2015, and the upzoning plan passed tonight was a step in the process of that plan. Commissioner Wynn Butler voted yes and expressed support for the upzoning plan.

“We came up with a 2035 plan, so people knew where the city was going,” Butler said. “The rezoning is designed to support that. We have had a lot of plans in this city, but we don’t implement them. We made it crystal clear that if the Comprehensive Plan passed, it is going to get implemented.”

Commissioner Usha Reddi said she opposed the plan because she was concerned about noise next to Bluemont Elementary School and that the city was making this too urgent of a matter when it should be concerned with overbuilding.

“We may not see as many people come in,” Reddi said. “K-State is already building on their own, and I do have a concern for the small neighborhood schools. I think when we rush into things, we end up regretting them in the future.”

Commissioner Linda Morse said she agreed with Reddi that this issue was being rushed and she wished for the issue to be revisited at a later time.

Ultimately, the motion passed 3-2, but there was over an hour of debate amongst the commissioners and people speaking out on the issue.

During the meeting, Manhattan Mayor Karen McCulloh also said she had some concerns about increased arrests this year on Fake Patty’s Day.

“Arrests on Fake Patty’s Day were way up,” McCulloh said. “They had been down for a couple of years, but they were back up again this year. There was an increase of drug-related arrests and drug dealing arrests as well, which provides more concern to the law board and the police department.”

McCulloh also declared April 2016 as Parkinson’s Awareness Month in Manhattan.

Commissioner Michael Dodson reminded the public that from March 28 through April 1, the city will be coming by to collect tree clippings and similar items. He said we need to do everything we can to “make Manhattan more beautiful than it already is.”

The commission will hold a work session on March 29.

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