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Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2004

Lecompton gearing for growth fight

City seeks to curtail Douglas County’s planning authority

April 1, 2004

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— If Lecompton is to fight off an approaching development invasion from Lawrence, city officials figure that the first line of defense should be convincing Douglas County commissioners to surrender their planning authority.

"This is to prepare for what's coming and to be ready for it," said John Riggs, a city planning consultant. "Lecompton simply wants to have control of its flanks."

Members of the Lecompton City Council, Lecompton Planning Commission and Douglas County Commission met to discuss their preliminary battle plans Wednesday night at Lecompton City Hall.

County commissioners know they hold the high ground, retaining the sole ability to zone property outside the city limits for development of homes, businesses, industries or anything else.

But Lecompton officials want to take over such responsibilities, saying that local control would give them a fighting chance to maintain their town's unique charm in the face of looming development.

"We're wanting to keep people in Lawrence from deciding what we have to do up here in the city of Lecompton," said Jim Wilkins, a member of the Lecompton Planning Commission. "We don't want people in Lawrence deciding what goes on in Lecompton."

Riggs, a 40-year planning veteran, outlined a proposal that would give the Lecompton City Council such control over a little more than 12 square miles of property bounded by the Farmer's Turnpike to the south, Kansas River to the north, East 400 Road to the west and East 800 Road to the east.

The city, then, would be able to decide which developers would be able to build what, when and where. It's an ability they've sought since Lawrence developer J. Stewart approached city officials several years ago with plans -- still unrealized -- for accommodating 1,500 homes and a handful of businesses on 1,000 acres southeast of town.

Lecompton now has fewer than 250 residences.

"You hear the people here say all the time, 'We don't want to be swallowed up by Lawrence,'" said Wilkins, who works for the city of Lawrence.

County commissioners said they'd be willing to entertain suggestions for including Lecompton officials in the planning process surrounding their town. They suggested that the Lecompton Planning Commission meet with a subcommittee of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission to discuss options.

"We don't have any right to get in the way of a well-conceived plan," said Charles Jones, chairman of the County Commission. "But there are lots of ways to skin a cat."

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