A conflict over rural development will be brought to the table for discussion next month.
Douglas County commissioners have scheduled a study session to resolve a crucial disagreement over their authority to deviate from planning regulations governing private roads on rural property.
During the session, which will be part of their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Oct. 16, county commissioners hope to find out whether they may allow land owners to install private roads to serve more than three homesites, which is the limit imposed by the Lawrence-Douglas County Joint Subdivision Regulations.
Commissioners also hope to resolve the question of whether they have created a potentially costly legal liability for the county by routinely sanctioning private roads that don't conform to those regulations.
Because private roads are not built to county standards and private landowners are responsible for maintenance, commissioners want to know whether the county would be liable for damages in the event of an accident on a nonconforming private road or if the road was impassable by an emergency vehicle.
Bob Fairchild, Douglas County's legal counsel, is preparing an opinion on that question, which was raised by Linda Finger, city-county planning director, and Phil Bradley, chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.
Commissioners will be joined at the study session by members of the city-county planning staff and the planning commission.
The issue arose last week after a 2-1 vote by the county commission to approve a private road that will serve six homesites and a pasture. Commissioner Mark Buhler, who served on the planning commission for five years, cast the dissenting vote.
He argued that every time the other two county commissioners allowed a nonconforming private road, they were sanctioning an unplatted subdivision that was not subject to the public review required by law.
City-county planning officials said they previously had been unaware that a majority of the county commission was routinely approving private roads that violate standards spelled out in subdivision regulations.