Archive for Friday, February 6, 2004

Lecompton explores expansion of zoning powers

February 6, 2004


Lecompton city officials say they want to control their town's development, and to better do so they want to extend their regulatory powers beyond the city's borders.

Members of the Lecompton Planning Commission, with support from the Lecompton City Council, are exploring options for expanding their authority. Specifically, they want to impose zoning and subdivision regulations outside the city limits, into land poised for development northwest of Lawrence.

The area, generally between Lecompton and the Kansas Turnpike, already has seen its share of development interest. One developer already has suggested putting 1,500 homes on 1,000 acres.

For a city that now has fewer than 250 residences, looking to assert authority over how such development takes place is essential, said John Riggs, a consultant hired to guide the city's planning efforts.

"I can sum it up this way: The city of Lecompton -- in a very little, tiny crucible, mini-environment -- wants to do the same thing that Lawrence is doing," Riggs said. "They want to have some control over their flanks."

To get that control, the Douglas County Commission would have to shed its authority over the property. That's because county commissioners make decisions about such development issues in the unincorporated areas of the county, and are advised by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.

The Lecompton City Council wants to take over that responsibility for areas near Lecompton. The Lecompton Planning Commission would serve as the city's adviser.

County commissioners aren't yet ready to discuss prospects for abdicating their planning authority. They want to consider the concept before making public comments, given possible contentiousness.

"You run the risk of saying something you might later regret," said Bob Johnson, a county commissioner.

If county commissioners reject Lecompton's wishes, the City Council could move on to its second option: declaring shared zoning and subdivision authority over all property within three miles of the city.

Such a declaration, permitted by state law, would require appointment of a joint planning commission to handle development issues.

Either way, officials want more authority, said Susie Hackathorn, city clerk.

"Lecompton just wants to have some input on growth that's close to Lecompton," she said.

The Lecompton Planning Commission's five members -- two of its seven seats are unfilled -- had been scheduled to broach the issue Monday with members of the Douglas County Commission and Lecompton City Council, but that discussion was postponed indefinitely to give county commissioners more time to consider its implications.

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