Archive for Thursday, April 11, 2002

Planning commission won’t split

April 11, 2002


Jere McElhaney said he was surprised to see his idea of splitting the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on the agenda at Wednesday night's county commission meeting.

"This was not meant to be brought up in a public forum yet," he said, noting that he'd been out of town for several days and wasn't fully prepared to talk about the issue.

But commissioners briefly addressed it anyway and decided unanimously that the planning commission should remain a single body.

McElhaney last month suggested splitting the planning commission into two groups one each to address city and county matters separately. He did so, he said, after community members approached him with concerns about several recent appointments to the planning commission. About two-thirds of those people argued planning commissioners weren't sensitive enough to rural concerns.

"I had an obligation to look into it," he said.

McElhaney asked Planning Director Linda Finger to investigate the consequences of the split. A report she issued April 4 concluded the split would require creation of separate comprehensive land-use plans and costly revisions of new city and county zoning regulations.

McElhaney's colleagues on the Douglas County Commission at Wednesday's meeting restated the positions they've maintained since the idea materialized.

"I can't think of one single reason we would be better off splitting the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission into two bodies," Bob Johnson said. "It would be a huge step backwards."

Charles Jones agreed and said it wasn't fair to blame disagreements about growth on a few new members of the planning commission.

"We're a growing community," he said. "Growth creates real strains. I'm pleased with the planning commission right now. I think we're having good debates."

Jones also suggested that the Douglas County Commission initiate a joint meeting between the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and planning commissions in Baldwin, Eudora and Lecompton, so members of the groups could meet and perhaps be more apt to contact one another when decisions before them might overlap.

In other business, county commissioners gave the go-ahead to the Douglas County Emergency Communications department to acquire three public safety emergency radio base stations. The new stations at a combined cost of approximately $52,074 would help strengthen weak two-way radio communication in the southern portion of Douglas County, Emergency Communications Director Jim Denney told commissioners.

The new stations would be paid for from available 911 fee funds. Douglas County residents pay 75 cents per phone line per month to this fund, which the Douglas County 911 Advisory Board then uses for projects to improve 911 services in the county.

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