Fort Scott residents spoke for and against further development south of town during a Fort Scott Planning Commission meeting Tuesday evening, expressing concern that their quality of life could be negatively affected.
Greg Fess gave presentations concerning two potential developments in areas near the Industrial Park. One for a vet clinic required a zoning change from agricultural to industrial while the second, a dirt bike track, needed a change from agricultural to commercial with a conditional us permit.
A number of residents spoke favorably of the Great West Vet Clinic that would like to open its doors by the beginning of the summer, offering care for both small and large animals. Not only would the clinic bring care such as surgeries, examinations and vaccines for animals, but it will also be only the second Cogent Breeding, Ltd., lab in the United States, bringing the study of bovine in vitro fertilization to the area from its United Kingdom base.
Concerns raised by the audience included the risk of disease, the elimination of waste and removal of deceased animals. Fess said the clinic would hold high standards of cleanliness and will have its own underground septic tank.
Residents spoke in favor of having such a clinic that would provide a local option for veterinary care for larger animals such as horses and cattle, instead of traveling outside of the city and even the state for such services.
“I currently travel hours to get to a specialized vet for our horses,” resident Nicki Traul said. “To keep that money local would be extremely important to our family…To have this in our own backyard would be a huge benefit to our community.”
But while the audience leaned in favor of the vet clinic to potentially be located south of the Kansas Department of Transportation building, residents were divided in their opinion of a dirt track being built on a piece of land near the Jayhawk and Liberty Bell Road intersection.
Fess said their plans are to put in a tiller track for dirt bike races, which would be hosted approximately three Saturdays a month except for a winter break. Fess said they hope the events would draw in as many as 200-300 racers, which would benefit the city of Fort Scott as those visitors stay in hotels and eat at local restaurants.
“We want to make it fun for kids as well as adults,” Fess said, saying they would build the track into the terrain, making corners and using rolling hills without building steep jumps that would be too difficult for younger riders.
Fess said they are aware of a number of concerns raised by the public and said they have taken strides to address those. Woodchips and specific products would be used to prevent as much dust as possible, since Fess said even the riders do not want to race on a track that raises a lot of dust. Mufflers will be required on the bikes and, though Fess said they realize that will not cut down all the noise, he said he believes the terrain itself, including the hills and the trees, will help block some of the noise.
Fess pointed out the noise of a dirt bike is comparable to that of the train which travels through Fort Scott regularly, and some traffic sounds are also just as loud. While they plan to have races regularly, Fess said they do not intend for them to continue into the evening hours, but only race during the day and limit any practice racing during the week.
Some residents attending the meeting said they believe the noise will diminish the quality of life in that area and could even prevent other businesses from wanting to come to town. Individuals who live close to the area in question especially said the noise would likely be difficult to live with because of the noise of numerous bikes as well as the crowd echoing through the valley.
“I think there’s a good reason why tracks are in the country,” Paul Brock spoke up, saying he does not believe it should be that close to the city because of the sound and bad air quality it might bring.
Other residents said features like the dirt track will help bring entertainment and visitors to Fort Scott, which is needed to help grow the community. Steve Buerge pointed out the community once complained about the sale barn being too loud as well, but said it brings large numbers of visitors from out of town and out of state as well as large amounts of dollars through the county.
“Industry is give and take,” Buerge said, saying both parties in such a business agreement have to make sacrifices in order to gain the benefits.
The advisory board approved recommending the zoning changes south of town for the Fort Scott City Commission, but said that approval is not based on their own personal opinion, but on the legality of rezoning the area. The commission will discuss the decision during their meeting Tuesday evening, January 17.