The South Lawrence Trafficway will have a maximum 450-foot right of way if the Douglas County Commission gets its way.
The commission on Wednesday outlined its land acquisition policy for the right of way purchase along the 14.1-mile trafficway route that will loop south and west around Lawrence from Kansas Highway 10 to a new interchange on the Kansas Turnpike northwest of the city.
The 450-foot maximum was chosen to "establish sufficient right of way to provide open space, green areas and space to construct hike and bike paths" according to a memo read by trafficway project manager John Pasley. The right of way may be narrowed in places to preserve existing homes, businesses, historic sites and natural features, he said.
The policy also included the existing 50-foot setback provision on both sides of the trafficway's right of way, which has been a point of contention with landowners along the route. The county originally wanted 150-foot setbacks with right of way widths that varied from 250 feet to 450 feet.
Setbacks are intended as green space between a road or highway and private property. The only structure allowed in the 50-foot setback area will be agricultural buildings.
THE 50-FOOT setback currently applies to land outside the city limits. The city has a 30-foot setback provision for land inside the city limits.
Commissioners felt the 450-foot right of way was a better deal for the landowners because land used for right of way is purchased while setbacks are not. Having the same right of way size also will be less confusing, the commissioners said.
The policy will be sent to the Lawrence City Commission and the Federal Highway Administration for review. The federal government will study the policy to see if it conforms with the project's Environmental Impact Statement. Bob Fairchild, county counsel, said he did not think federal approval would be a problem.
Another major issue about the policy is whether the Kansas Department of Transportation will pay for 450 feet of right of way. KDOT is handling the right of way acquisition from landowners along the route. Pasley has said all along that KDOT only will pay for the right of way needed to build the road.
COUNTY Commission Chairman Mark Buhler said the county feels that the 450-foot width is "a reasonable right of way." He said part of the 450 feet could be used for the hiking and bicycle trail, another aspect of the project. The county also has applied for a $2 million federal grant through KDOT for the trail.
Buhler said the county will try to sell KDOT on the 450-foot right of way by telling the department it's needed to build the trafficway. If KDOT doesn't buy the county's recommendation, he said, "We've got to rethink the situation, no question about it."