Douglas County commissioners went on record Wednesday night with their feelings about a controversial rural land use plan but took action only on a minor part of the report.
After more than 1 hours of discussion, the commission formally received "A Call to Planning Action for the '90s," more commonly known as the Rural Development Planning Report, from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission's ad hoc committee that authored it.
All three county commissioners came out against the proposal to change the five-acre exemption to 40 acres as recommended in the report.
The current exemption allows residential development in rural parts of the county, without platting or other zoning requirements, on land zoned for agricultural uses as long as the development occurs on at least a five-acre tract.
However, county commissioners left themselves compromise room on different acreage exemptions, based on how close property was to Lawrence, Baldwin and Eudora.
COMMISSIONER Mike Amyx said the five-acre exemption was something "very close" to rural residents and should be kept "in the areas it truly needs to stay in. It offers the protection for the people who are in the agriculture business who want to sell or deed off property to one of their kids."
Commissioner Mark Buhler said his concerns about the five-acre exemption "may have more to do with what is the right size, more than the exemption itself."
Buhler and the other commissioners did not offer alternative acreage requirements for consideration as exemptions.
Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney said he supported the five-acre exemption.
"But it's always been my feeling that people in the further part of the county and the close proximity of Lawrence . . . should be treated differently," he said.
McELHANEY added that different exemptions could cause "boom" areas to develop just outside of the Primary Urban Growth Areas (PUGA), rural areas adjacent to cities, where most rural development has occurred.
The approximately 30 rural residents attending the meeting offered a less strident reaction than at a September meeting, in which one speaker referred to the report as "socialism" because of the perceived governmental intrusion into private property rights.
Ron Schneider, president of the Douglas County Preservation Alliance, said the report contained many issues that needed to be addressed in detail.
"The fundamental questions are what are your goals and what are you trying to do here," he said. "It's a comprehensive issue that needs to be addressed, and we don't think there is a quick fix."
SCHNEIDER said problems with agricultural land, natural resources, historical structures, landscapes and the environment should be addressed.
"We think there should be an emphasis on conservation and preservation," he said.
Schneider and several other speakers raised questions about why 40 acres was chosen as the proposed new size for an exemption. He said whatever acreage is chosen for exemption should be explained to the public.
The county commission adopted only one of the report's recommendations, a matter dealing with the county's minimum maintenance roads standards. The county commission called for a joint county-planning commission meeting to discuss the remaining issues in the report. No date was set for the meeting.