Planning commissioners have complicated passage of a rural water deal.
The Lawrence City and Douglas County commissions will have to override a planning recommendation on Horizon 2020 if they hope to salvage a hard-won rural water compromise.
The issue turned thorny Wednesday when the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission recommended that eight square miles be shaved off the southern end of the urban growth area around Lawrence. The UGA, whose boundaries will be set forth in Horizon 2020, will define the city's sphere of influence in rural Douglas County.
Planning commissioners said the UGA should extend only to N. 1100 Road, also known as Leary Road. However, both the city and county commissions tentatively had agreed that the UGA would take in both sides of County Road 458, also known as Wells Overlook Road, which is one mile further south.
City officials had insisted on that UGA boundary as one of several land-use concessions the county would make in a quid pro quo to lift the city's cap on rural water meters in the southern half of the county.
``I'm uncertain at this point what the status of the county's agreement with the city is,'' said Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug.
``If the county commission decides to narrow down the size of the UGA as recommended by the planning commission, the city commission would also have to agree to that,'' Weinaug said. ``That would involve a change of position for the city of Lawrence.''
Horizon 2020, the new comprehensive land-use plan, will return to the county commission for its endorsement or rejection Nov. 13. The city commission is scheduled to consider the document Nov. 19.
The current county commission repeatedly has demonstrated a willingness to disregard planning recommendations, however two commissioners, Louie McElhaney and Mark Buhler, have said they think the UGA boundary dips too far south.
McElhaney, who lives on N. 1100 Road and would be included in either version of the UGA, has said he won't vote for Horizon 2020. With Commissioner Jim Chappell intent on passing Horizon 2020 and securing a water meter deal before he leaves office in January, Buhler is the swing vote. He was not available for comment Thursday.
When Buhler raised the issue earlier this month of shrinking the UGA, Lawrence Mayor John Nalbandian said any tinkering with the land-use concessions would imperil the water meter deal.
Because the city treats water for Rural Water Districts 2, 4 and 5 in southern Douglas County, the city can control how many meters are sold. RWDs 4 and 5 will build a $5 million treatment plant if they can't get more meters to sell.
However, city officials have said they won't make more meters available until rural development in areas likely to be annexed is subject to stricter land-use regulations. The UGA at Wells Overlook Road is one of the conditions in a package of tighter rural development regulations that the county and city negotiated over the past several years.