The third class cities of Pratt County are one step closer to being part of a county zoning commission. The Pratt County Commissioners approved an inter-local agreement Monday night at the commission meeting that will provide county zoning board access for each of the cities in Pratt County with the exception of two.
Byers, Coats, Cullison, Preston and Iuka are expected to approve the agreement.
The city of Sawyer opted not to take part in the in the planning board and the city of Pratt already had a planning board.
The Pratt County/Cities Joint Planning Commission will have to go through an approval process in each city and then go to the attorney general's office in Topeka for finalization, said Tim Branscom, Pratt County Emergency Manager.
The cities will have an ex-officio member that can bring matters to the commission but will not be able to vote.
It would be too expensive for the smaller cities to have a full time zoning administrator so this commission will give the cities access to a governing body that can handle zoning issues.
Under the new agreement, the smaller cities will be a part of the planning commission and that will allow Branscom to do all the legwork for a zoning matter.
Currently, the small towns in the county are not zoned and any type of business could start in any house in the city limits. If someone wanted to, they could start a hazard materials business in the middle of any of the smaller cities in the county.
The commission will help keep businesses out of residential areas and establish areas where business can locate.
Now, if someone wants to put up a building in a city they have to go through the planning commission. If they want to start a business in a home they have to go through the planning commission.
For people who want to start business in the home, each business will be evaluated on an individual bases. Some types of businesses like funeral home, animal kennel, church, repair shop and many others would not be allowed to start in a home but would have to go to a designated business area.
If a business already exists in a home, they would be grandfathered in and not have to change location.
It is going to take some time to get each of the cities to approve the joint planning commission. Branscom anticipates it will take at least several of months to get around to each city council meeting and get the agreement approved.
"We hope to have it done by summer," Branscom said.
Talk about including the smaller cities in the zoning commission about two years ago.