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Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Land near airport on county radar

Commissioners support industrial development north of river

April 13, 2004

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Hundreds of acres north of Lawrence Municipal Airport should serve as a landing strip for future industrial projects, Douglas County commissioners said Monday.

And folks in the development flight path shouldn't be surprised once projects begin requesting approval in the area that starts along U.S. Highway 24-40 and runs north to the Jefferson County line.

"People are going to be on top of the hill, saying, 'You're going to ruin my view,'" said Charles Jones, commission chairman. "And I'm going to tell them, 'You're going to be looking at industrial.' "

Commissioners said that the area north of the airport would be a prime target for new business parks and associated development. Late last year, city and county commissioners extended the city's urban growth area to include the area, opening it up to the possibility of urban projects during the next 20 years.

Jones and Commissioner Bob Johnson said they wouldn't think of forcing farmers into giving up their land, but also left little doubt that they would look favorably upon plans that could add jobs around the airport.

"It won't be ruining your view," Johnson said, following up on Jones' assessment. "This is what it's going to be."

Commissioners offered their ideas Monday morning to Linda Finger, director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office. Finger and members of her staff are busy compiling a list of areas that could be identified for future industrial development.

City and county commissioners are looking for at least 1,000 acres that could be targeted for such projects in the coming years. Planners will be expected to have a map showing general possibilities by May 5, when city and county commissioners are scheduled to discuss development issues.

County commissioners know the area north of the airport isn't yet equipped to handle an influx of industrial projects. City sewers -- a logistical necessity for many projects, even some small-scale business parks -- do not yet stretch north of the airport, grounding visions for any projects taking off soon.

Jones said that city and county commissioners should get together soon to discuss prospects for extending public infrastructure to the area. They also could think about devising incentives that might help convince developers to invest in projects near the airport.

Also Monday, county commissioners said they were interested in coming up with new zoning categories that would place limits on types of industrial projects that could be built. The county's current industrial designation allows an expansive array of operations, including the mixing of chemicals and skinning of livestock.

Such "intense" uses rightfully scare neighbors, commissioners said, although a developer might need permission only to open a few "light-industrial" buildings that wouldn't send speeding traffic, pungent smells or other potential problems into the countryside.

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