Archive for Thursday, April 4, 1996

SPEAKERS CONTEND HORIZON TOO VAGUE

April 4, 1996

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The public hearing phase of Horizon 2020 yielded a variety of perspectives on the draft of the land-use plan.

For downtown Lawrence business owners, the Horizon 2020 draft doesn't go far enough, while rural land owners and economic development proponents think the proposed land-use guide plan oversteps its bounds.

However, people who spoke Wednesday at the final public hearing on the plan, which will recommend policies for officials to use in making development decisions, did agree that the document left room for interpretation later by elected officials.

``It seems to be worded intentionally vague so as to please everyone,'' said Jeremy Furst, owner of The Buckle, a downtown clothing store.

David Longhurst, president of Downtown Lawrence Inc., asked the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission to insert a recommendation into the plan that specific guidelines be used when considering proposals for commercial development in other parts of the city. Longhurst said that demographics and existing commercial space should be considered.

Earl Reineman, vice president of Weavers Inc., said the city of Lawrence was able to fight suburban mall developers and defend the decision in court because the current plan, Plan 95, more strongly advocated downtown as the regional commercial center.

``I'm concerned that Horizon 2020 does not give us the strength to say no (to other commercial development) when we choose and to make it stick,'' Reineman said.

Downtown supporters accounted for the greatest number of single-issue speakers at the hearing, which was attended by 75 people.

Planning commissioners will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Lawrence's city hall to mull comments received at Wednesday's public hearing and two others. Once they approve the draft, it will be forwarded to the Douglas County and Lawrence City commissions for approval.

Provisions in the plan for protecting natural areas from development also drew fire for not clearly defining properties that would be affected.

``It's scary to think that certain areas might be identified as riparian areas or steep slopes without scientific study,'' attorney Price Banks said.

On the other hand, defenders of property rights said recommendations to restrict development were intrusive.

Jack Graham, who owns land west of Lawrence, said that by placing restrictions on development, Horizon 2020 would take away a property owner's right to capitalize on his investment.

Advocates for economic expansion also found the plan too restrictive.

``It seems to me like we ought to give a little more flexibility and a little more opportunity to allowing business to develop in the proper way wherever businessmen see fit,'' said Don Cashatt, co-chairman of the Douglas County Property Owners Assn.

Realtor Jo Barnes agreed and said industrial development should be encouraged.

``You cannot rely on commercial-retail and residential properties to carry the tax load,'' she said.

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