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Archive for Thursday, August 31, 1995

COUNTY OKS ZONING PROPOSAL

August 31, 1995

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An agreement to swap water meters for tighter regulation of rural growth has begun to make its way through the public process.

A controversial proposal to rewrite some key regulations governing development outside the Lawrence city limits got a half-hearted send off from Douglas County commissioners Wednesday night.

Over its chairman's objections, the commission approved a resolution of intent, setting in motion the process for tightening county zoning and subdivision regulations.

``Right now I'm looking at this as passing 7 to 1,'' Commission Chairman Louie McElhaney said.

County Commissioners Mark Buhler and Jim Chappell have said they would back the proposal and McElhaney expects the five-member city commission to add its unanimous approval.

The proposal would abolish the five-acre exemption, which allowed property owners to duck subdivision regulations, within an expanded primary urban growth area. The southern boundary of the PUGA, the rural area closest to the Lawrence city limits, would be moved from the Wakarusa River to include property along both sides of Wells Overlook Road.

That would bring McElhaney's 90-acre horse farm, at 1371 N. 1100 Rd., into the PUGA.

If the county agrees to the proposed changes, the city will relax restrictions on the number of new rural water meters that may be issued. The city, which sells water treatment services to three rural water districts, says the concessions will raise development standards in areas most likely to be annexed into the city. That in turn would spare the city costly improvements when city utilities are extended into those areas.

When it meets at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday in city hall, the Lawrence City Commission is expected to endorse the resolution, sending the proposal to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission for a public hearing as early as Oct. 25. The proposal will then be sent back to the city and county commissions for final approval.

Buhler, who has spent the past year negotiating on the county's behalf, said the proposal was an attempt to reconcile the demand for more water meters to serve burgeoning rural development with concerns about how that development is occurring.

``They are somewhat colliding interests,'' he said.

Chappell said the situation required compromise.

``In an ideal situation I might not have chosen all these things, but I can live with them,'' he said.

McElhaney said he opposed the proposed changes because the burden imposed on property owners within the PUGA was too great. For example, he objects to increasing standards for new rural water lines and subdivision roads in the PUGA unless the city can guarantee that the property will be annexed into the city within the next 15 years.

``I can't imagine why the city wants to control what goes on outside the city if it's not going to be part of the city in a reasonable time,'' he said. ``What concerns me more is why the county would want to give up control.''

McElhaney, whose son is building a home on the family property and will get his water from a well, said he wasn't willing to make the concessions city requested.

``Nobody needs a water meter right now worse than members of my family ... but I'm not willing to give up some of these things we've got in the rural area in order to get a water meter,'' he said.

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