The Lawrence- Douglas County Planning Commission is ready for round two of a fight over suburban growth.
Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell hopes a public hearing today is the beginning of the end for the ongoing controversy over rural development.
When it meets at 6:35 p.m. in city hall, the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is scheduled to take public comment on proposed boundaries for the primary urban growth area around Lawrence.
A companion proposal for stiffer regulations for development within that area, where growth is occurring most intensely, was the subject of a public hearing last month.
What Chappell said he doesn't want to happen is for the planning commission to shelve these rural development proposals until Horizon 2020, the new countywide guide plan, is drafted next year. At that point, the same issues would be revisited and the same controversies revived, Chappell said.
``I want to see the planning commission, the county commission and the city commission only have to endure this pain once,'' he said.
Rather than vote a new PUGA map up or down and take an all-or-nothing approach to the regulation amendments under consideration, Chappell said he hopes planners will pick the proposals apart and make thoughtful recommendations about the broader planning issues involved.
Planning commissioners, who are appointed, can be more objective about whose land belongs inside a PUGA than elected city and county commissioners, Chappell said.
``When we look at a map like this, we employ some science but a lot of politics,'' Chappell said. ``What I'm hoping the planning commission does is to leave out the politics and employ the science to tell us where the PUGA should be.''
The most controversial part of the proposal would move the PUGA boundary south from the Wakarusa River to Wells Overlook Road. All three county commissioners have said that since the city has no plans to extend sewer service south of the river, the boundaries may be too broadly drawn.
Planning Commission Chairman Phil Bradley said his panel, which has been studying the issues, should be ready to begin deliberating and working out compromises once today's hearing is finished.
``This should complete all the elements necessary for all of the commissioners to make a decision,'' he said.
Although there may be disagreements on some points, ``I think everything in there is fixable,'' Bradley said. ``I think we've left people hanging long enough.''
City and county officials negotiated the proposed PUGA map revision and stricter development regulations to address the city's concerns about the cost of annexing substandard infrastructure.
Many rural residents, who turned out by the dozens for last month's hearing, see the issue as one of government encroachment upon property rights.
Unless the existing development regulations are amended, city officials have said they won't allow rural water districts south of Lawrence to increase the number of water meters they issue. City officials wield that power under a contract to provide water treatment services to those districts.