Mar 16, 2023

Ellinwood officials: Zoning ordinance would not allow refugee shelter

Posted Mar 16, 2023 12:00 AM

Great Bend Post

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. That was the message from Ellinwood officials during Tuesday's city council meeting in front of a packed house at the School-Community Library. Mayor Irlan Fullbright addressed the issue of converting the former Woodhaven Care Center into a shelter for immigrant refugees.

"I think we're getting the cart before the horse," he said. "Until the zoning question is resolved through planning commission, ownership of the property, I think we're at a moot point is my opinion, unless somebody tells me different. We're getting ahead of ourselves as far as getting approval or talking about bringing people here. You have to have a place to put them before you bring them here, and at this point in time, we don't have that."

Royal Flagg and Bryce Carbajal have expressed interest in the project. Carbajal would own the property, with Flagg as the shelter's operations manager. City Administrator Chris Komarek met with Flagg after the issue was first brought to the council nearly a month ago. Komarek said, at this point, zoning ordinance would not allow the project within city limits.

"The biggest thing the city is concerned about at this point is whether that type of operation is allowed under our zoning," Komarek said. "We've come to the conclusion that the definition of this operation they want to run out of this building is going to be a shelter. It's a shelter for refugees. In reviewing the zoning ordinance we have, we don't even have a definition for a shelter in our zoning ordinance, let alone we do not allow such an operation in any of our zoning districts."

Komarek described the seven zoning districts in the city. Woodhaven was in an R3 zone for multi-family structures like apartments and four-plexes, though schools, hospitals, churches, and rest homes can exist in any of the three residential zones. Komarek said no one can request a zoning change without owning the property in question, and Carbajal does not own the Woodhaven building.