City and county officials have initiated negotiations to help people in rural areas get more water meters, while also preventing suburban sprawl.
Representatives from each governing body met Thursday in hopes of reaching some sort of consensus. Neither body had a quorum and did not meet in public.
People building homes in rural areas have faced a shortage of water meters, forcing them to dig wells or wait on long lists. Rural Water District No. 4 recently announced it could not add any more names to its waiting list. The district is out of meters.
"The city would ease restrictions on water meters in the unincorporated area if we would consider a (larger) primary urban growth area in exchange," said Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell. "Understand that this is just one county commissioner and two city commissioners, but I think it's a plan that everyone can support."
The full city commission would have to consider a provision to ease rural water meter caps, and the county commission would have to mull revoking the five-acre exemption for a larger area surrounding Lawrence, he said.
"We're not completed yet by any means," city commissioner Bob Moody said.
Chappell said the city still wants a growth restriction on water meters, but might be willing to enlarge the current 1-percent-a-year growth restriction.
In exchange, the county would have to enlarge the planning area in which Lawrence is likely to let out its hems in coming years. That area would be declared a primary urban growth area, and people building there would have to submit plats for any size property.
Most area in the county has a five-acre exemption, allowing people to build on lots five acres or larger without being subject to an array of planning guidelines. The proposal would eliminate that exemption within the primary urban growth area.
Forcing people to plat in the area would cost taxpayers less, officials argue, because right of ways and easements would already be available to the city upon annexation.