A request for the waiver of fees for road impacts revealed gray areas in one of the county’s policies aimed at encouraging farmers.
A request for the waiver of fees for road impacts revealed gray areas in one of the county’s policies aimed at encouraging farmers. The request came from Scott Schuetz, who had previously purchased a five-acre tract of land off of 158th Street and Metro Avenue. He said he was already farming the adjacent 140 acres, land leased to him by his parents. Schuetz said he was trying to build a home on the tract he owned and asked the commission to waive the road and traffic impact fees, which are collected from those building houses and used to fund road improvements. Jeff Joseph, director of county planning and zoning, said the current road impact fee was $4,750, while the traffic impact fee would be $820.70. Joseph said the required documentation for the waiver was all there — a letter from a certified public accountant verified that more than 65 percent of Schuetz’s income was in fact derived from farming. “But the subject property is only 5 acres,” Joseph said. The county’s subdivision regulations require that any property asking for a waiver of fees under the agricultural use exemption be at least 40 acres. The reason none of the other homeowners along Metro had paid the RIF and TIF fees, according to county Public Works Director Mike Spickelmier, was because they were built prior to the RIF and TIF resolutions in 1999. County Counselor David Van Parys said Kansas statutes’ definition of “agricultural use” was broad, but it did not include those sites that were primarily used for housing “whose primary function is for residential or recreational use.” Though Joseph said the commission had the final word because of the agricultural use exemption policy, the staff recommendation was that the commission deny the request based on its falling short of the size requirement. However, Julie Schuetz said her son had bought the first 5-acre tract only because he could not afford to buy the entire 140 acres at that time and she argued that the agricultural use regulation mentioned “use,” but did not indicate that ownership was required. “Scott and Blaine (Scott’s wife) are the ones this would be written for,” she said. Commission Chairman John Flower later said he agreed, to some extent, and questioned whether the commission needed to look at updating the policy to accommodate cases like the Schuetzs’, where the intent was clear to farm and not for developers to take advantage of a loophole. “We got people who want to stay in the county and who want to honor our agricultural heritage,” he said, though the county’s rules and regulations are standing in the way. “So I’m going to try to figure out how do we, or do we, want to make this go away?” Asked what he would do, Commissioner Bob Holland argued that he thought the situation was clear. “I’m thinking playing by the rules we have set forth right now,” though he said he could see the commission updating them later. Despite those concerns, the commission approved the waiver unanimously.