The Lawrence City Commission and Douglas County Commission in the next two weeks will study a plan that uses easements to sharply reduce setback requirements along the South Lawrence Trafficway.
Easements, which can either be purchased by governments or turned over to the governments by landowners, give the governments the right to use private property. With setbacks, governments restrict the landowners' use of property without compensating the landowner.
The plan will require the city and county to obtain easements equivalent to about 80 acres along the 14.1-mile trafficway route. City and county officials said today they did not know if the city, county or state would pay for easements not given by landowners.
City Commissioner Bob Schumm offered the easement plan at the end of a joint city-county meeting Monday at city hall. The plan calls for 50-foot setbacks the entire length of the trafficway. The size of the easement, which extends beyond the right of way, would depend on the size of the right of way at various points along the trafficway.
FOR EXAMPLE, Schumm's plan calls for a 50-foot easement on both sides of the trafficway where the right of way is 350 feet or less. Where the trafficway's right of way is 400 feet wide, a 25-foot easement would be needed. No easement would be needed where the right of way was 450 feet or wider.
"This will accomplish what the original interlocal agreement set out to do, that is maintain a wide-open vista and allow us to place a hiking and biking trail in close proximity to the trafficway," Schumm said.
Schumm's idea followed a proposal by John Pasley, trafficway project manager, who suggested varying setback widths depending on the right of way. But Pasley's plan troubled a few people, including Schumm, because of the inequities in the setback sizes.
Schumm's plan was discussed in detail today at city hall by County Commission Chairman Mark Buhler, City Manager Mike Wildgen, acting county administrator Pam Madl, Pasley and Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Director Price Banks. The plan will go to the city and county commissions for further review and consideration.
IN TWO previous meetings, the city and county discussed requiring 150-foot setbacks on both sides of the trafficway for greenspace. The county's current setback requirement is 50 feet. The city's setback standard is 30 feet.
The groundwork for Schumm's plan occurred at a joint meeting Feb. 17 when Pasley showed the trafficway's preliminary right of way needs. Because of terrain, the amount of land needed for right of way often extended in the 300- to 450-foot range.
Commissioners entered the Feb. 17 meeting thinking that a 150-foot setback was necessary for greenspace if the trafficway was built on a 250-foot right of way. When the right of way needs were shown to be greater than 250 feet, commissioners began pondering if the 150-foot setback was too much.
"Now in light of how wide the right of way must be in almost every case, we think the 150-foot setback is excessive," Buhler said today.
BANKS THIS morning said that Schumm's plan, if approved, negated the need for an overlay zoning district or additional zoning restrictions along rural parts of the trafficway since the setbacks will not be increased. Such a district will be needed in the city limits along the trafficway route, Banks said, to increase setback requirements from 30 feet to 50 feet.
A landowner along the trafficway route voiced his displeasure with the possibility of setbacks greater than 50 feet near the end of Monday's 1 -hour meeting.
"There's a real simple way to solve your problem you want my land, buy it," said Fred Pence. "If the person that you're buying the road for . . . wants to look at beautiful scenery along the road, let him also pay for that. It's public good that's what the road's for."