The standoff over rural water meters may be nearing an end, a county commissioner reports.
It may do double duty as a paperweight, but the water meter Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell plunked down on his desk this morning is there to send a message.
``Water meters held hostage, day one,'' Chappell said.
He explained that the contraption will sit next to his nameplate in the county commission chambers until the county and the city of Lawrence reach an agreement to thaw an impasse over the availability of new meters in rural Douglas County.
Commissioner Mark Buhler, who is negotiating the agreement for the county, said he and city representatives will meet again Wednesday to fine-tune the latest proposal. A final draft of the agreement, which must be approved by the county commission, may be ready for public discussion next week, he said.
The city is asking for concessions in the form of tighter development regulations before lifting the ceiling on the number of water meters that can be sold in rural Douglas County. The city wields such control because water districts buy treatment services from the city.
However, the city has declined to lift the ceiling on the number of meters that can be sold each year unless it receives assurances that development outside the city limits meets city standards. City officials have said they want to avoid problems in areas most likely to be annexed into the city.
Both Chappell and Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney said this morning that they are likely to approve some form of the current proposal, which leaves the five-acre exemption rules largely unchanged. The exemption allows owners of lots five acres or more in size to develop their property with fewer restrictions than smaller lots.
Among other things, the proposal expands the boundaries of the Primary Urban Growth Area around Lawrence, the rural area with the strictest planning regulations. The southern boundary would be extended to include development on both sides of Wells Overlook Road.
``That's probably going to be the most controversial thing in the whole proposal,'' Chappell said.
McElhaney, who had been concerned by strict platting and improvement conditions in earlier versions of the proposal, acknowledged that his 90-acre horse farm at 1371 N. 1100 Rd., would be brought into the PUGA for the first time.
``It makes it harder for me to fight,'' he said. ``It might look like a conflict of interest.''
However, McElhaney said that the current proposal appeared to take a softer approach to some of the issues he took exception to earlier.