Manhattan and Riley County’s Partnership in Planning
The City of Manhattan and Riley County entered into a fairly unique and visionary agreement on May 1, 1976. That agreement created the process to jointly create a comprehensive land use and review development projects in Manhattan and the area immediately outside of the city to ensure that development on the edge of Manhattan would be appropriate and could, one day, seamlessly be a part of the City. The agreement was most recently updated in 2001.
This process, which has been in place for more than forty-five-year, has prevented development patterns that occur in other areas of the state from happening in our community. For instance, imagine a new residential neighborhood being created on the edge of Manhattan that could have substantially smaller rights-of-way widths, narrow or no utility easements, and inadequate public utilities for water, fire protection, and community sanitary sewer services. When the nearby city limits extend out to that neighborhood and it eventually makes sense to annex the area into Manhattan, upgrading that neighborhood to have adequate streets, sidewalks, fire hydrants, and sewer and water would be expensive and challenging.
The result of the agreement is the creation of the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board. The MUAPB is a defined area per the joint agreement and the boundaries of the Manhattan Urban Area Comprehensive Plan. The Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board is made up of seven members and comprised of both residents of Manhattan and rural areas of Riley County within the defined board boundary. Three Board members are appointed by the City Commission and three Board members are appointed by the Board of Riley County Commissioners. The seventh Board members rotate between the City and County for each three-year term. Additionally, the agreement established that the subdivision of land would follow the same regulations and processes in this area to ensure consistent and appropriate infrastructure, such as sewer and water, would be provided for development.
The different elements that make up the development oversight in the MUAPB jurisdiction can be viewed as a set of nesting circles, where each map jurisdiction is smaller and fits within its larger counterpart.
The sum of all of the parts is the Manhattan Urban Area, and, as we have already discussed, is the jurisdiction of the MUAPB. The outermost layer is the Urban-Rural Fringe, which is areas in the Manhattan Urban Area that are not anticipated to be developed at an urban or suburban scale in the foreseeable future because of the limited utility infrastructure and development demand. This area generally will stay in its rural agriculture and residential character. The next layer is the Urban Service Area. This the area that has infrastructure readily available or could be extended to the area soon and that the market or development demands make the area a prime location for future growth. And the last, innermost area is the city limits of Manhattan.
The MUAPB hears requests for all rezoning and subdivision of land in their jurisdiction, regardless of if the property is within the City limits or not. For applications within the City limits or is to be annexed into Manhattan, the City staff will manage the applications and handle the process with the MUAPB. For applications in the MUAPB jurisdiction that will not be annexed into Manhattan; Riley County will shepherd these applications to the MUAPB. Any land use application outside of the MUAPB jurisdiction will be handled by Riley County staff and be heard by a separate Riley County Planning Board. Following the Planning Board actions, the City Commission will hear items that are to be within the City, and Riley County will hear all other items.
The Manhattan Development Code continues this mutual process that has been placed since 1976. Section 26-9C. Land Division outlines the applicable jurisdiction, as previously discussed. Section 26-5C-1, General Requirements for Streets and Division 26-5D, Standards for Public Improvements describes which entity’s utility design standards will need to be followed, depending on where the site is in (urban-rural fringe, urban service area, or city limits) within the MUAPB boundary.
Although slightly more complicated than other processes to review and approve development applications in the areas outside of a growing city, the Manhattan Urban Area Planning Board has served the City and Riley County well. To keep this mutually beneficial process going, the City and County staff are working to ensure the new development codes that both entities are separately working on will seamlessly meet the objectives of the original, unique, and visionary idea.