Douglas County commissioners Wednesday took a "show me" attitude toward a controversial rezoning request for an asphalt plant just east of Lawrence.
Commissioners voted to conditionally grant rezoning for a 49.3-acre tract south of East Hills Business Park, subject to approval of the site plan.
Mike Amyx, commission chairman, said he thinks the burden is on the applicant to demonstrate how the asphalt plant's impact on neighboring property owners will be limited.
"We're willing to accept that burden," said Steve Glass, president of LRM Industries Inc., which sought the rezoning from agriculture to heavy industrial.
LRM plans to build a "state-of-the-art" asphalt plant at the site this year or next and a concrete plant there in the next three to seven years. LRM officials say they want to consolidate the company's operations at the site, eventually moving their offices and maintenance facilities there from North Lawrence.
GLASS SAID he guessed it would be seven to 10 years before LRM has consolidated its operation at the new site.
The proposed rezoning drawn fire from neighbors, who say the plant would have adverse effects on the environment, traffic and land values.
Wednesday's conditional vote came in response to a request by an attorney for the neighbors, Ed Collister Jr., who said commissioners should address neighbors' concerns before approving the rezoning.
County commissioners unanimously approved rezoning for the entire property, with three conditions:
LRM is required to plat the property as one lot before a building permit can be issued.
The rezoning won't become final until commissioners approve the site plan, which must include landscaping to screen the plant from neighbors and the highway and a detention pond to prevent water from running onto adjacent properties.
LRM must finance all costs of any improvements to Kansas Highway 10 that are determined by the Douglas County public works director and the Kansas Department of Transportation. The improvements, which will include truck acceleration and deceleration lanes on K-10, must be built within one year after being ordered by the public works director. LRM also must post a bond guaranteeing that the improvements will be made.
AMYX SAID he agreed with Collister that safeguards to limit the plant's impact on neighbors must be shown on the site plan before rezoning becomes final. In fact, Amyx said he wouldn't vote for the rezoning unless it were tied to approval of the site plan.
Commissioner Louie McElhaney said he sympathized with both sides on the rezoning. While he feels LRM has met all the legal requirements for rezoning, McElhaney said he can't blame neighbors for not wanting to live next to an asphalt plant.
McElhaney said his main concern is limiting the impact of the plant on the neighbors.
"It's a difficult issue," agreed Commissioner Nancy Hiebert. However, she said the area south of K-10 that includes the proposed plant is earmarked for industrial development and will continue to be under heavy development pressure "regardless of the decision tonight."
LRM OFFICIALS said they probably could have the site plan ready for the commission's approval in a month.
The commission's vote drew a mixed reaction from the neighbors.
"I think my clients would have preferred that they just deny it," Collister said, "but half a victory is better than none."
One of the neighbors, Faye Thomas, said she had resigned herself to the rezoning.
"Time marches on, and I'll accept the changes as they come," she said. "It isn't going to be the same."
Her son, Gary, said he was disappointed by Wednesday's vote because he doesn't see how some problems can be resolved.
"There's one thing they cannot contain. They cannot contain the odor of the stuff stored on the site," he said. "And how can they contain 400 trucks, the noise?"
LRM OFFICIALS indicated that during peak times, 200 trucks would come and go daily at the plant.
Glass said, "We feel they came up with a compromise that protects the interests of all parties. We look forward to the opportunity to present a site plan.
"We feel that the commission recognized our efforts and the sincerity of our efforts. That probably played a part in their decision-making process, and we feel good about that."
LRM's attorney, Todd Thompson, said he feels the vote was a recognition of land-use plans that call for industrial zoning in that area south of K-10.
"So it was a vote in favor of long-term planning," he said.