The city of Parsons will spend about $46,000 more than anticipated on a new comprehensive plan and zoning regulations update.
During a regular meeting Monday, city commissioners approved a proposal for Verdunity Inc., Dallas, to create a plan to guide the city through its development for 10 years. The company also will update the city’s zoning regulations and create new digital maps to aid the city staff’s operations. The total cost will be $146,200.
The city had budgeted $50,000 for this year and $50,000 for 2021 for a comprehensive plan, but City Manager Debbie Lamb said all of the money needs to be accounted for in this budget. She planned to transfer money from funds to cover the cost.
Verdunity submitted the most expensive proposal of three firms, but the Parsons Planning Commission and city commissioners are excited to work with the company because of its philosophy on community growth.
Verdunity is a founding member of the Strong Towns concept. Started in 2009, Strong Towns is an organization that aims to change ideas about growth and development across North America. It wants communities to stop betting their futures on huge, irreversible projects and start taking small, incremental steps. The Strong Town approach emphasizes obtaining a higher return on existing infrastructure investments. It also encourages participation from everyone in a community.
“I think it’s going to be a good deal. It’s the best group that I’ve seen. It really looked good,” Commissioner Verlyn Bolinger said on Thursday.
The commissioners have discussed Verdunity’s proposal in previous meetings, but on Monday they had very little to say before approving the proposal on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Kevin Cruse was not at the meeting.
The most current comprehensive plan for the city was created for 2000-2010. A Kansas statute requires cities to create a new comprehensive plan every 10 years, but there are no penalties for outdated plans. The commission approved a re-adoption of the old comprehensive plan with amendments that brought economic, population and housing statistics current in November 2018.
The plan was completed by Foster and Associates, Wichita, actually after 2000 began and following years of delays caused by the company. The city had entered into a $63,000 contract with Foster and Associates in 1996 after receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city received two time extensions of a year each on the grant to accommodate Foster.
In 2008, the city hired JEO Consulting Group, Wahoo, Nebraska, to develop a plan for 2010 to 2020, but city officials were dissatisfied with the result. Then Mayor Bill Wheat called the completed product a “piece of junk” and said the city wasted money on it. The city declined to adopt it and instead only incorporated some of the information from the plan into the 2000 plan.
In 2018, the planners recommended a proposal from Kansas City, Missouri, firm Gould Evans for a new comprehensive plan at a cost of $99,435. That plan included zoning regulation updates but not the mapping components the city could use on a day-to-day basis. The city considered making its own maps with help from Labette County, but that arrangement didn’t work out. The city commission never approved the Gould Evans plan because of the lack of zoning maps and the cost. The city then checked into grant availability for the project but couldn’t find any outside funding.
In other business, commissioners:
— Approved payment of $159,967.14 to Heck & Wicker Construction Inc., Parsons, for work completed on a 16th Street improvement project from Broadway Avenue to Clark Avenue that is adding new stormwater pipes and new concrete along with the widening of the 16th and Main Street intersection to add turn lanes.
— Approved payment of $12,880 to Burns & McDonnell Engineering for services on the construction of a taxiway connector at Parsons Tri-City Airport.
— Accepted a bid for concrete surfacing in the 1400 block of Morgan Avenue.
— Approved an employee leasing agreement between the city and Labette County for the services of Jim Zaleski, economic development director, and Laura Moore, community development director. The two are working for the county in the distribution of federal coronavirus relief funds. They will be paid for their work in addition to their regular city salaries. The Kansas Public Employee Retirement System required the agreement.
— Approved an ordinance that would rezone property at 1814 Crawford from multi-family residential (R-3) and central business district (C-2) to service commercial (C-3). The lots owned by Ryan’s Commercial Property are located north of Olson’s Ace Hardware. Both companies are owned by Ben and Beth Ryan. The Ryans want to build a new greenhouse and possibly a retail sales building on the property. Much of the property already is being used as sales space for Ace’s plants and flowers, and there is a greenhouse there, too.
— Approved a resolution that would release the lease of property at Ray’s Products. The city issued industrial revenue bonds for the company’s expansion of its existing building. The bonds, which Ray Products has paid off, came with a property tax abatement. The city technically owned the property while the bonds were being paid and leased it to Ray Products.