Friday, October 24, 2014

Win-win? County could buy disputed property to boost road

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 8/11/2014

Franklin County could be making an opportunity out of a rotten situation.

A property on John Brown Road repeatedly has broken county sanitation codes, but the Franklin County Board of Commissioners might have found a solution.

Franklin County could be making an opportunity out of a rotten situation.

A property on John Brown Road repeatedly has broken county sanitation codes, but the Franklin County Board of Commissioners might have found a solution.

During a Monday study session, commissioners reviewed legal actions the county could take against a property at 4303 John Brown Road, Rantoul, that has been violating county sanitation codes since 2011. The county could not take any action during the study session, but plans to discuss the matter in an executive session Wednesday, where the board potentially could OK purchasing the land to help develop a safer roadway on John Brown Road near the site.

The county previously received a grant from Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Solid Waste Program in 2013 to help clean up the property when it was purchased by a new owner, according to county documents. While the grant helped pay for the cleanup, the site has returned to violating sanitation codes.

The current site owner has stored salvage materials, household waste, used tires and similar materials on the site and periodically uses an old structure on the land as a residence without required water and sanitation services, according to county documents.

Larry Walrod, public works director, said the county has five options: to review legal status of the default judgment and re-file a zoning/sanitation code violation; resubmit a grant to clean up the site again; purchase the site; exercise power of eminent domain and condemn the site; or seek private investors interested in purchasing the site to protect their property values.

Based on the location of the site, Steve Harris, commission chair, said it would be possible for the county to buy the land, clean it up, and use the area to develop a more safe John Brown Road. Don Stottlemire, commissioner, said the site was close to a location on the roadway where John Brown Road curves into Utah Road, which is dangerous for drivers.

“It would be nice to buy that property and make that a safer intersection,” Harris said. “To me, it’s more of a potential public safety issue. We’ve got the problem with the violations, but at the same time, there is a way that property can be acquired or done something with the purpose of increasing public safety.”

Don Moler, interim county administrator, suggested the commissioners discuss the possibility of purchasing the site in an executive session during Wednesday’s regular meeting.

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