Archive for Thursday, August 28, 2003

Planning officials vote to extend growth area

Final approval could regulate more rural lands

August 28, 2003


Sue Pine worries that in the future Lawrence city officials will start telling her how she can use the land her family farms north of the city.

But Pine, chairwoman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, put aside those concerns Wednesday night and voted with the majority to extend the Urban Growth Area around Lawrence.

"The way the regulations read today, I can farm in the Urban Growth Area," Pine said in an emotional statement before casting her vote. "But I'm putting myself to make a living in an area you now have more control over.

"I don't know who's going to be sitting up here (in the future), on the City Commission or the Planning Commission. This is my livelihood, and it scares me."

Other commissioners who voted to extend the urban growth area said the land around Lawrence was becoming more populated with city-style developments. Granting government a stronger hand in those developments, they said, just makes sense.

"I think the development, the urbanization of this county is going to happen at a rapid pace whether anybody likes it or not," Planning Commissioner Ernie Angino said.

Under Wednesday's vote, the Planning Commission agreed to set the Urban Growth Area boundaries at North 900 Road to the south, East 1700 Road to the east, North 2000 Road on the north and East 500 Road to the west.

As defined in Horizon 2020, the city-county comprehensive land-use guide, the Urban Growth Area is meant to predict and contain the city's sprawl.

Properties within the Urban Growth Area carry more restrictions for developers, such as a 3-acre lot minimum. Outside the Urban Growth Area, property still can be divided into 5-acre pieces to build single homes unless pieces smaller than 5 acres have been carved off since 1972.

Planning Commissioner Tom Jennings, who lives south of town in the new Urban Growth Area, said the new restrictions made it unlikely he would be able to allow new houses on his 80-acre property for other family members.

"I've already told my son to look someplace else to live," he said.

Planning Commissioner Dennis Lawson, however, said the restrictions were an unfair burden on rural property owners.

"Sometimes we wrap ourselves in the cloak of good planning and charge against windmills I'm not certain exist," Lawson said.

Lawson and Jennings were the only votes against the proposal. Pine was joined by Angino and Commissioners Terry Riordan, John Haase, Roger Schenewerk, David Burress, Bonnie Johnson and Myles Schachter in voting to recommend approval.

The issue was hot enough that Douglas County Commissioners Bob Johnson and Charles Jones attended the meeting to watch, along with Lawrence City Commissioner David Schauner. Both commissions will take on the issue in coming weeks.

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