The Manhattan City Commission meeting on Tuesday night saw the passing of several rezoning measures to allow new construction projects to go forward. However, it was the final general agenda item that caused some debate.
The commission considered a new initiative which would allow a proposed daycare program to be held at the Sunset Zoo Nature Exploration Center. Commissioner Wynn Butler said he considered it a bad idea to get the city involved in the project due it exhibiting traits beyond what was initially envisioned for the center. Butler called it “mission creep”, and said he doubted the initial voters envisioned running a daycare at the zoo.
Friends of Sunset Zoo board member Lowell Bliss disagrees with the thought of mission creep. Bliss points out the rotunda of the Exploration Center has the mission statement on display “inspire a vision for conservation of the natural world”. Bliss points out it would be an opportunity for children to learn about nature, and this program is exciting for a child to be immersed “in God’s great creation”. Sunset Zoo Director Scott Schoemaker says the new program will be nature based, and unique in the city. Several community members came forward to support the proposed daycare program, and included K-State Center for Child Development Assistant Director Cassie Anderson. Anderson told the commission the proposed program would not take away from her center, and pointed out the fact there was a waiting list for her facility.
The proposal passed with a three to one vote with Butler casting the dissenting ballot. The daycare center will use a lottery to determine candidates for the program if there is overflow, and is slated to cost around$785 dollars a month per child.
The other three general agenda items covered rezoning to allow several projects to move forward. The construction of a new Dollar General store, a new Wonder Workshop project, and residential housing required a public hearing and final vote from the commission. Mayor Loren Pepperd pointed out he believes the city should take a look at zoning, and fix the “hodge podge” manner zones are laid out in the city. Mayor Pepperd quipped that he had been saying it needed to be done for a long time, and he probably wouldn’t see it actually occur in his lifetime.