The Manhattan City Commission approved an economic development package for a local company, voted to rezoned a plot on Laramie Street, and discussed new city and commercial planning regulations as well as a new policy on special events with alcohol at their meeting in City Hall on Tuesday.
The commission approved the economic development package for Ultra Electronics I.C.E. Inc., an aerospace electronics business founded in Manhattan that was bought out by a U.K. holding company in 2014. The package was initially approved at commission’s first reading on June 6 and was not altered. Ultra Electronics is looking to expand and relocate some military aerospace programs to a facility in the U.S.
“This is an excellent project,” said Commissioner Wynn Butler. “I especially like it because it supports a local business and doesn’t necessarily bring out an outside business.”
The package offers the company up to $745,000 in economic development assistance for facility construction and hiring incentives to spur job growth. The company is seeking to create 33 new jobs making more than $14.25 per hour over the next 10 years.
“I think this is something we can’t turn away and it’s also very supportive of Kansas State University [and helps]to keep some of our graduates in Manhattan — they always said if they had a good job they would definitely stay in Manhattan,” said Commissioner Usha Reddi.
The commission again approved the package by unanimous vote.
The commission also approved a rezoning ordinance for a single plot on Laramie Street. The 1321 Laramie Street property was moved from the multi-family residential with university overlay district to the Aggieville business district. The property was the only remaining multi-family zoned plot in the area and all surrounding properties had previously rezoned.
The rezoning would allow the property to redevelop the lot following the rest of Aggieville’s example.
“I think it helps to square up some of the lines there on the zoning district,” Mayor Linda Morse said. “We would not want a residential and a rental just surrounded by taller buildings — they would never see the sunshine.”
The agenda item also rezoned a small area behind the apartments to the four-family residential district with university overlay. City staff said the intention behind this was to preserve parking access for the adjacent 525 N. Manhattan property.
“I think this does fall within the direction Aggieville is seeking to reinvent itself and grow and become more commercial for all the right reasons,” Reddi said.
The commission unanimously approved the rezoning.
Also on the agenda was a discussion of new regulations related to the Unified Development Ordinance. The city is working with Kendig Keast Collaborative to produce the ordinance with the goal of streamlining the development application process as well as update zoning and subdivision regulations. They discussed multiple new regulations.
“There’ll be standards spelled out about how close you can have new intersections to existing intersections, driveways, curb cuts, those sort of things,” Assistant Director of Community Development Chad Bunger said.
They also discussed sidewalk requirements for new developments. Bunger said Manhattan didn’t always require developers to include sidewalks on both or even just one side of the road. They are proposing sidewalks be required on both sides of streets — except on highways — in all future developments for community health benefits, increasing property value in new developments, as well as for improved pedestrian safety.
“The more times you have to cross a street — especially a busy one — increases that risk,” said Bunger. “More pedestrian facilities, the less times you’ve got to cross a road and makes for a better and safer environment.”
Bunger also said the new regulations would decrease the minimum required parking spots for commercial properties and apartment buildings outside of the K-State area. Currently, minimums on parking spots for residentials not near campus are based on a sliding scale that requires more than one spot per bedroom.
“We figured make it easy on everybody and say the minimum is one bedroom equals one parking space,” said Bunger. “If you want to provide more because you’re renting to families, you can provide more.”
He told the commission that interns and staff did a study and found that street and apartment lot parking in residential areas not near K-State was pretty bare during the wee hours of the morning. This led him to the conclusion that they did not need the higher parking spot minimum.
Bunger also said the new regulations would trust business owners to make the best decision for themselves regarding parking. Retail buildings will see minimum parking spots decrease from one space per 250 square feet to one per 500 square feet. Restaurant requirements will decrease from one spot per three customers or employees to 1 spot per 200 square feet. Grocery stores will decrease from one spot per 200 square feet to one per 400 square feet. It will also institute a maximum parking spot limit.
Mayor Linda Morse and other commissioners were concerned the decreased minimums will push patrons to park in residential areas, impacting the already-occurring issue. Bunger was not all too concerned.
“I think the parking situation in and around campus and around Aggieville is more of a function of people coming to campus for classes, to work, or coming to Aggieville to work and to dine rather than the tenants not parking in their parking lot,” he said.
The new regulations would also will require a minimum number of bicycle parking spots based on number of bedrooms for residentials or number of parking spots for commercial properties. Additionally, there will be new requirements for landscaping on streets and parking areas.
Lastly, the commission discussed a new policy for special events with alcohol in Manhattan. Currently, city law requires all special events with alcohol to have a defined boundary for the event. Further, the city also requires that any alcohol served and consumed at events be done within another separated “beer garden” area within the special event grounds that bars anyone under 21 from entering.
The Young Trustees’ of the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation asked the commission to talk about removing the age requirement to enter the beer garden area so as not to force families apart at events.
“When you only allow people 21 and older, you kind of start having to separate people,” Assistant to the City Manager Jared Wasinger said. “Say you have a family-friendly event and you’re with your wife and your kid, one of you is going to have to separate to stay with the kid because they can’t enter that area.”
The commission discussed multiple ways to change the policy, but largely agreed with removing the beer garden requirement altogether and allowing alcohol consumption for of-age patrons throughout the approved special event grounds.
“I keep thinking back to tail-gating at K-State and the big sign there that says ‘no alcohol allowed’ — [it’s] on state property, and everybody is out there drinking and there’s no wristbands and there’s kids there,” said Commissioner Butler. “We routinely do this at K-State football games, so why do we want to go crazy on other events? We’re still going to have a heck of a lot more constraint than you see at the K-State tail-gating parties.”
Commissioner Jerred McKee said he could see the new policy helping reign in Fake Paddy’s Day festivities.
“Right now we drive people out into the neighborhoods and it becomes a nuisance for the residents of those neighborhoods,” McKee said. “If we would encourage a little bit more density on Fake Paddy’s Day it makes it a lot easier to enforce and I think overall creates a better experience for the citizens of Manhattan.”
Commissioner Reddi also asked city staff to look into time limits on such events to keep them from being a nuisance all day.
City staff will continue working on the new policy after receiving commissioner feedback.