Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission members said Wednesday they would embark on a "visioning" process to determine how the community should look in the next 30 years.
The process springs from concerns that Douglas County is becoming urbanized city-style living, even in supposedly rural areas without the benefit of urban planning.
"Douglas County is becoming more and more urbanized, more and more Johnson County-ized, and it's going to do that with or without direction," Planning Director Linda Finger said. "So far it's been without direction."
Officials said the vision shouldn't supplant Horizon 2020, the city-county comprehensive land-use plan. Instead, it would offer more of a big-picture look at Lawrence and Douglas County's growth.
"It's certainly going to be supplemental to Horizon 2020," Finger said. "But visioning is going to be broader than land-use planning."
Planning officials said they would find a way to include the public in the process. The planning commission also wanted to sit down in a joint meeting with the city and county commissions and the Lawrence school board to talk about the future. Such a meeting might happen in December or January.
It might not stop there. Planning officials said there was a growing need to discuss the future with planning officials in surrounding communities.
"What we need to do is get a global vision, countywide, and then look beyond our own county," Finger said.
The visioning decision came during a Wednesday morning planning commission study session. Commissioners had planned to discuss their top agenda items for the next year. But they realized there was more work to be done (on issues such as population density, infrastructure development and open space preservation) than can be completed in such a short time.
"A lot of these items won't be completed within the tenure of the people on this board," Commissioner Ernie Angino said.
Commissioners decided the visioning process could be the foundation for decisions on the other matters.
"It starts with policies," Finger said, "so you know how to develop the plans."
Commissioners said they were concerned the rural parts of the county were already becoming city-like without much planning guidance.
"The cow's out of the barn, and the barn door's closed on county development," Commissioner Ron Durflinger said. "That doesn't mean we can't salvage it."
Commissioner David Burress said the city was expected to grow by 100,000 people in the next 35 years. He said most of those people would choose to live south of the Wakarusa River now outside the city's planning area.
"There's never going to be another time when we can plan for that area," he said.
The commission will start the vision process at its next study session, 7:30 a.m. Nov. 13.