The city of Hays, Kansas has an area of just under eight square miles, and a population of just over 20,000. In the past few years, Hays has been updating its existing zoning and subdivision regulations to align with the Comprehensive Plan it adopted in 2012. With its expertise in the field of real estate, and in defense of public property rights, the 80-member Hays Board of REALTORS® tapped in to the power of the REALTOR® Party to help bring clarity, vision and fairness to the process.
The Comprehensive Plan, itself, was not objectionable, explains Doug Williams, who chaired the committee the Hays Board established when the zoning regulation revisions began. The plan articulated a vision based on Smart Growth principles that allowed for residential and commercial growth. It was the revision of the zoning and subdivision regulations that became problematic: “The city had hired a consultant from Houston who drafted the new regulations using boilerplate material that had been developed for other communities, but which were not necessarily appropriate for Hays,” says Williams. At more than 400 pages, the proposed regulations were confusing and complex.
Laura Sadeghi, who is now President Elect of the Hays Board, and its MLS President, also served on the board’s zoning committee. “As members of the National Association of REALTORS®, we receive the information it sends out about the programs that are available to us,” she recalls. “We knew we had an issue that would qualify for a Land Use Initiative review, so we decided to use REALTOR® Party resources, the first time we’d ever done so.” Working fast to comply with the city’s time frame for public comments, the Hays Board submitted the proposed regulations to Robinson & Cole for review. The 26-page analysis was returned quickly, revealing redundancies, inconsistencies, illogic, contradictions and aspects that were arbitrary and vague. The Hays Board hit the ground running, sharing the report with city officials and pleading its case with local stakeholders at numerous public planning meetings.
“Once we got involved with our recommendations from Robinson & Cole, the city became much more receptive to removing many of the problematic sections of the proposal,” notes Williams. At that point, the Hays Board is glad to report, the scope of the grant changed, as there was no need to launch a media campaign. “The city was grateful for our constructive criticism, because those who were truly committed to the cause, wanted to get it right,” says Williams. There are still concerns with some points of the revised regulations that were approved by the city commissioner and implemented in August. “We got most of the bad stuff out,” he concedes, “but we know, and the city knows, that it’ll have to be fine-tuned.”
The Hays Board is grateful that, though a small organization, it can affect real change in the community, thanks to the resources of the REALTOR® Party. Says Williams, “It’s important for other boards to recognize that this resource is available to them, and to use the benefits that NAR offers to protect against overzealous regulations, and protect private property rights.” Sadeghi, agrees, adding, “Small boards like us can plug in to practical, significant resources that can create real goodwill with the city. We simply couldn’t do that without the REALTOR® Party.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Hays, Kansas are helping to ensure that their community’s zoning code is rational and fair, contact the Hays Board of REALTORS®’ President Elect, Laura Sadeghi, at firstname.lastname@example.org; Doug Williams, its Zoning Committee Chair, at email@example.com; or Association Executive Marilyn Luetters, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-625-8155.