The county is ready to work with GB on the HOI project

Regarding the proposed Housing Opportunities Inc. Cambridge Park project, Barton County Commissioners said Wednesday morning they were open to meeting with Great Bend City Council. However, by the consensus of the commissioners, the ball is still in the city’s court.

The topic of low-income housing development was brought up by District 4 Commissioner Jon Prescott, who attended a business session of the Great Bend Town Council meeting on Monday evening where it was discussed at length. Prescott is the retired executive director of Sunflower Diversified Services, which is partnering with HOI on this initiative.

Cambridge Park would be east of University of Kansas Health Systems – Great Bend Campus and south of Walmart. The 24 acres are outside the city limits, but HOI is looking to leverage city utilities, such as the sewer system, for the project.

There are two main issues, neither of which requires county action, Prescott said.

First, “at the moment (the city is) not interested in annexing it,” he said. “They haven’t taken that to a vote yet, but it’s still under consideration.”

Annexation would bring the land into the city. It would be part of the city for utility and tax purposes.

Second, “they have a (sanitary sewer) lift station that they talked about.” The concern is whether this lift station can handle the volume caused by the new development.

The station covers most of the western part of Great Bend and is the last before the city’s water treatment plant, Prescott said. But, it doesn’t have the monitoring equipment to keep up with its capacity, which will cost $8,000 to install.

City Council and city officials were of the view late Monday that the station should be upgraded regardless of the fate of Cambridge Park, he said. It is important to know what the station can handle for this or any other project.


Prescott said he met with City Administrator Kendal Francis and Mayor Cody Schmidt on Tuesday. It was then that they mentioned a meeting with the commission to discuss annexation and any interest the county might have, although the county has no say in the decision to ‘annexation.

“They would like to discuss it because they really like the relationship that we have developed between the two entities,” Prescott said.

Currently undeveloped, the small spur of land surrounded on three sides by Great Bend falls into Great Bend Township. For tax purposes, it is zoned agricultural, but it is within the city’s three-mile zoning jurisdiction.

According to Prescott, this now nets the county $2,500 in taxes. If HOI’s three-phase development were completed, the county would collect approximately $32,900 (if annexed by the city, the city would collect $41,006).

District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier questioned the need to involve the commission because it cannot control annexation or zoning. But, he noted that township officials should be part of the talks as they would maintain the roads if the land remained in the county.

“I know we’ve worked really well with the city and I don’t want to meddle in their business, but is there a timeframe we need to consider?” asked District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz. But “is there anything we can do to help the city move this project forward?

“That’s a good question,” Prescott said. The city would probably like the county to help upgrade the lift station.

“Other than that, it’s the only thing stopping them from deciding what they’re going to do and what they should do.”

The project

The 28-unit low-income Cambridge Park will be Phase 1 of a three to four phase project for this property over the next 8 to 10 years. Construction was to begin soon.

Miller said the first phase, Cambridge, is a low-income project. It is possible that future phases will be moderate income units.

Sunflower guests will have the first shot at the resort, moving to Cambridge from current group homes and other residences. Units will include one- and two-bedroom duplexes with attached one-car garages. The project will also include a functioning community building for tenant use, as well as group home options.

If the units remain empty, they will be available for community members with special needs.

HOI will be the owner and general contractor of Cambridge Park, as well as management and maintenance services when completed. HOI purchased the 24 acres from local physicians Dr. Randall Hildebrand, Dr. Perry Smith, Dr. Jeff Brozek and Dr. Leonard Fleske.

HOI pays taxes on its properties. However, it may be at a discounted rate as there is a complicated formula to calculate it.

A housing need

“One of the things that we can all agree on is that if there’s a housing shortage, and every time something is built, and someone moves from one thing to another, it’s freeing wherever he lives,” Schartz said. “So that’s a plus, even if it’s only for special needs or the elderly, these people live here somewhere. It’s kind of like a domino effect.”

“We were told that social housing was not needed,” Krier said.

“It’s so incorrect,” Prescott said. “Because HOI has 200 people on its waiting list.”

“There’s actually a housing study that was done by a third party that said we don’t need (low-income housing),” commission chair Shawn Hutchinson said. , District 3.

“Going back to the partnership with Barton County and Great Bend, growth is expensive. We know that, and so we have to be aware of that,” Schartz said. “We need to do everything we can to make more housing available in this county, and if anyone has a foothold here they should do what they can to help.

If the land is not annexed, all homes on it would have to be hooked up to city utilities, County Councilman Patrick Hoffman said. And, if any part of the county remains, the commission would have to approve a development plan.

When it comes to maintaining roads and using county rights-of-way for municipal services, “it’s complicated,” Hoffman said. “That’s why I think a joint reunion makes sense.”

Maria D. Ervin