South Korean investors are sinking $1.2 million into a plan to bring environmentally sensitive homes to a harsh patch of Douglas County rangeland.
Core Investments won a split endorsement Monday from Douglas County commissioners, whose 2-1 vote cleared the way for sales of the 13 residential lots beginning early next year.
The approval came despite fierce opposition by project critics, including the chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.
"This is absolutely the worst development plan that we've ever been given to consider," John Haase told county commissioners, noting that the site along Stull Road is adjacent to a rock quarry, within shooting range of a gun club and so pockmarked with rock and steep slopes that "you wonder why anyone would want to convert this to a residential setting."
But Charlie Dominguez, general manager for Core Investments, said the reasoning was simple: to build a sustainable community, where 13 environmental stewards could live in harmony with their commitment to the land and its limited resources.
Homes will be required to include "zero energy" features, Dominguez said, including rooftop solar panels, underground reservoirs to collect rainwater and recycled or steel framing materials to lessen the effect on the environment.
The project also will give Core Investments' owners -- South Korean businessmen Yong Sub Lee and Wang Joon Yoon, who have family in the area -- a chance to live the American dream, backed by $1.2 million of their own money garnered from the sale of five hospitals in Seoul.
"They see great opportunity in Douglas County and Lawrence, and they want to invest here and make an investment in the United States," Dominguez said.
The project, known as Raeta, calls for 13 upscale homes sprinkled among horse barns, farm ponds and working fields on 159 acres along the north side of Stull Road, a half mile east of the Shawnee County line.
Lots range from five to 12 acres, and will accommodate estate-style homes designed to share a communal horse barn, grazing pastures and ponds. Dominguez said completed home sites would sell for $500,000 to $750,000.