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Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2001

Preventive measure

July 19, 2001

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More flood plain development planning now may save the city some headaches down the road.

A breather from residential development in the flood plain may be in order.

City commissioners instructed staff on Tuesday to prepare an ordinance that would place a six-month moratorium on annexations north of the Kansas River and for other property that lies within the flood plain. Officials hope the break will give planning officials time to complete flood plain development regulations and the "North of North Street Plan" for growth north of the river.

Because no developers or citizens appeared at Tuesday night's meeting to voice objections, the moratorium presumably won't have a serious negative impact on developers working in these areas. And the six-month time-out may allow city commissioners to prevent planning decisions they will later regret.

The recent 50th anniversary of the devastating flood of 1951 is a vivid reminder of the power of Mother Nature and the dangerous consequences of ignoring that force. Construction of the river levees in North Lawrence and containment efforts such as Perry Lake have prevented a repeat of the 1951 floods, but that doesn't mean that overdevelopment of property in the flood plain won't or perhaps already has created serious drainage problems in North Lawrence and other parts of the city.

It's better to take a comprehensive look at flood plain development issues now and plan how to deal with them than to go ahead with development and deal with the consequences later. Current residents in North Lawrence are concerned about the impact of new development, not because they oppose new construction in their neighborhood but because of the impact additional homes and streets will have on drainage and their homes.

Two years ago, the city was forced to buy a home in North Lawrence and demolish it to put an end to a chronic flooding problem. The city was unable to find any other feasible way to deal with flooding, which the resident of the home reported had grown increasingly worse as more homes were build in the neighborhood.

At the time, commissioners discussed various "long-term" solutions to the problem including a moratorium on development. Although the city can control development by denying annexation requests, the limited moratorium now being considered has another advantage. It gives the city time to take a studied approach to flood plain development but puts a deadline on completing that work so that development won't be halted indefinitely.

People buying homes in Lawrence trust that the city has taken all reasonable steps to ensure those homes won't be plagued by flooding. A six-month moratorium seems a reasonable strategy to make sure that trust is warranted.

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