The long-range planning document for Lawrence and Douglas County now moves forward to the city and county commissions.
After nearly five years of work, Horizon 2020, the long-range planning document for Lawrence and Douglas County, won unanimous approval Wednesday night from the 10-member local planning commission.
"Hallelujah," said Phil Bradley, chair of the Lawrence Douglas County Planning Commission.
"Absolutely," said Jean Milstead, a planning commissioner who chaired the Horizon 2020 Steering Committee during the document's construction.
The document -- which officials stress is designed to be used as a planning tool, not a bible -- now goes to the Lawrence City Commission and the Douglas County Commission for consideration.
Milstead and Bradley, who both were attending the last meeting of their terms, each thanked the public and the planning staff for hundreds of hours of work on the document.
"I think it's appropriate we had a unanimous vote," Bradley said during a break in the meeting. "We sent forward a document that accurately reflects the diversity of our community and points a guide path for progressive quality growth and yet preserves quality of life."
Several members of the planning commission expressed surprise the document was approved so quickly, anticipating more debate.
Commissioner Dennis Snodgrass, although voting in favor of the plan, said he couldn't support the entire document.
One part he opposed was extending the county's urban growth area south of the Wakarusa River, because an engineering study said the likelihood of a sewer treatment plant on that river was remote.
He opposed several other parts, including references made to preserve environmentally sensitive areas, such as ridge lines, lakes, ponds, streams, riparian areas and grasslands.
"To me, it sounds like it covers all of Douglas County and it doesn't really talk about how that preservation is going to take place," he said after the vote. "I just thought it left a lot wide-open."
Milstead said she was "surprised and relieved" the document was approved at her last meeting on the planning commission.
"It could very well come back to the planning commission from the governing bodies," she said.
Bradley said each commission could rework the document and approve plans with different language. But he thought both governments probably would work to adopt a single plan.
Lawrence Mayor John Nalbandian was unavailable for comment on the plan's approval Wednesday night.
City Commissioner Bob Moody said there probably would be ample time for more public input, although the official public hearings now are complete.
Moody said the big question is whether the county or the city will deal with the document first.
"The fact that it was a unanimous recommendation will carry a lot of weight with both commissions," he said. "I know it's not unanimously endorsed throughout the county, but I'm not sure in this county or this community you're going to find any policy that is."
Louie McElhaney, who chairs the county commission, said late Wednesday night he didn't know what to think about the document yet.
"I'll have to wait until I get it and go over it again," he said.
The county commission probably would begin dealing with the document within a month, he said.