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Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2001

City wants more floodplain controls

Commissioner reinforces policy directive to planning committee studying issue

December 6, 2001

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Just in case planning commissioners didn't get it, City Commissioner David Dunfield decided to make it clear Wednesday: The city wants new regulations to greatly restrict floodplain development.

"These draft regulations are before you because the city commission has made a policy decision about floodplain development in Lawrence," Dunfield said to a subcommittee of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission. "We regard this as a public safety and taxpayer protection issue of the highest order."

Dunfield said he went before the planning subcommittee Wednesday because media reports indicated some planning commissioners were questioning the need for the new rules.

"There seemed to be a tone of questioning whether it was appropriate to regulate," he said. "I wanted to reinforce that the commission has said we will regulate."

Dunfield said he was speaking for the entire city commission.

In July, the city commission unanimously passed temporary moratoriums against development north of the Kansas River and in any floodplain. The moratoriums expire Jan. 15, but a planning commission review of proposed regulations that would permanently restrict floodplain development is expected to continue past that date.

"Not that we've been dragging our feet, but we won't make that deadline," said Planning Commissioner Jane Bateman, chair of the subcommittee reviewing the proposed regulations.

Dunfield said the moratoriums may be extended past their current deadline.

The proposed regulations which all but prohibit new development in the floodplain have come under fire from property owners and developers, who say they will hurt land values and eliminate prime areas to create affordable housing.

But Dunfield said Wednesday there are other costs to consider.

"The city commission has repeatedly seen the disastrous cost in personal property destruction and taxpayer dollars that are the result of inadequate restrictions on floodplain development," he told planning commissioners. "We are determined to correct that."

The planning commission is also charged with reviewing separate but similar rules for rural development. Much of the opposition comes from rural landowners, and Douglas County commissioners have indicated they aren't as enthusiastic as their city counterparts about implementing the new rules.

Bateman said she was satisfied with the subcommittee's progress.

"I don't think we're doing anything we shouldn't be," she said. "I think we're going in the right direction."

The subcommittee's next meeting is at 8 a.m. Dec. 18.

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