City planners approve N-O zone amendment

Plans to amend Holton’s neighborhood office zoning regulations to include residential living space were not intended to turn Holton into a city with too much rental housing, the Holton Planning Commission noted during their regular meeting on Monday.

While reviewing an application from Homestead Affordable Housing of Holton to amend the city’s N-O (neighborhood office district) zoning regulations, planners heard concerns from city residents about rental housing in the city regarding overcrowding and rental property maintenance, it was reported.

Considering the former concern, the application to amend the zoning regulation to turn part of the former Word of Encouragement Family Church property at Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, now owned by Homestead, involved allowing multiple-family housing as an acceptable use under N-O zoning. Assistant City Manager Kerwin McKee said this was the main concern for those in attendance on Monday.

Instead, planners made a recommendation to add R-2 (two-family dwelling) zoning as an acceptable use in an N-O zone to the Holton City Commission. McKee said the city commission will take up the matter at one of its regularly scheduled March meetings, which are set for Monday, March 7 and Monday, March 21.

Homestead President and CEO Tom Bishop said plans for the former Word of Encouragement church property, which was placed under N-O zoning in August of 2012, included setting up new office space for Homestead and other neighborhood organizations in a metal building on the property. As for the church building, described by Bishop as a “framed, residential building,” Homestead’s plan was to turn it into rental housing.

While Homestead was considering purchasing the property, Bishop said, he had been told by the city that it was fine to use the building as single-family housing, since the now-defunct church had used it that way. But when the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation, which provides Homestead with funding assistance for its rental properties, looked at the building, it was suggested to split it into a duplex.

“It’s almost 2,000 square feet,” Bishop said of the residential area. “You could serve two families in that space instead of just one.”

But many present in the audience for Monday’s meeting were concerned that the duplex would end up serving more than two families, and Bishop said he agreed with those concerns, adding that he intends to make sure that any and all Homestead rental properties are well-maintained, inside and out.

As a result, the “multi-family” residential request on Homestead’s application was modified to allow for R-2 zoning by planners. Bishop later said that while the modification was fine with him, he wanted to make sure that it would also be “OK with everybody else in the room.”

“I understand their concerns, because I have some of the same concerns,” he added.

Bishop also said he attempted to contact everyone present for Monday’s meeting who had concerns, adding that he “wasn’t going to leave with anybody thinking that they had a conflicting opinion or that they didn’t want it done.”

“We had everybody say to a person that it was going to be OK,” he added. “In the end, I think it will work well and serve a couple of families well. It’s got a nice location, it’s close to downtown and we’ll be close by to keep an eye on it.”

The Holton Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals are scheduled to meet on the fourth Monday of every month at Holton City Hall when there is business to conduct. For more information, contact McKee at 364-2721.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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