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Planning group talks landscaping




The Hays Area Planning Commission continued to refine proposed changes to landscaping and irrigation regulations at its meeting Monday.

Nicholas Willis, Hays stormwater/water conservation superintendent, presented the plan and fielded questions from the commissioners. John T. Bird, city attorney, helped answer legal questions regarding the regulations' wording.

"The intent of this is to do long-term protection of our water supplies by reducing use associated with primarily new residential and commercial construction," Willis said.

Although there are several approaches in the city's attempt to improve its model of water sustainability, the core focus is on future development.

"If you're wishing to build a new house, you're going to be much more directly impacted than if you already live here and aren't planning to put in a new irrigation system," he said.

Willis identified an area of improvement for the city.

"We have to be good stewards of the limited resources that are available," he said. "When it comes to outdoor water usage, I think Hays is failing."

One option was capping residential lot size at 7,000 square feet and the size of commercial irrigated areas. The fact there are more than 200 developments -- many bigger than 7,000 square feet -- was raised as a conflict.

Banning private wells was an idea, but the commission would encounter obstacles because it shares jurisdiction with the state. Legal issues are also a concern.

Asking developers to bring in water rights was an approach, but the city would have to pay for long-term operations with the infrastructure.

Regulating tree plantings was an idea discussed, but the commission could make accommodations for windbreaks in the 3-mile radius surrounding Hays.

The commission will meet again in January to further discuss the details. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for February.