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Archive for Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Planning board to consider rural subdivision plan

April 19, 2006

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Douglas County commissioners have revised rural subdivision regulations they think will shape the county's growth, management of taxes and infrastructure development.

"I think you have to make some tough decisions now in order to have healthy growth in the future," Commissioner Charles Jones said of the project that has been ongoing for several months.

The regulations are now being considered by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, which will have a public hearing about them tonight. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Last month Jones spoke to the Planning Commission about the regulations, which he says will shape how the county is going to look 25 years from now.

One thing the county wants to do is avoid traffic gridlock like that on 23rd Street. The number of "road cuts," or driveways, could be restricted.

The county also wants developers to shoulder some costs associated with the location of a subdivision, such as paving a nearby road to eliminate complaints about dust. County commissioners want to make sure the cost to taxpayers is as reasonable as possible, Jones said.

But not everyone is happy with the county's proposals. Rural Baldwin resident Richard Morantz is one of them. He says they make it too easy for rural development to occur outside Lawrence's urban growth area, which is an area a few miles outside the city limits that might eventually be annexed.

The County Commission has made a number of amendments that allow subdivisions in more areas of the county, Morantz said. He said growth in the county should occur differently.

"When the pressure for the city to grow comes, it comes as it grows out from the city instead of leapfrogging across the county," he said.

Morantz argues that such "leapfrog" development will cost taxpayers more to provide services to those developments.

"It's a problematic change," he said.

Jones said he understands Morantz's concerns.

"Our approach has been not to prohibit but rather to make sure whatever subdivision is done in a rural area is done well and cost-effectively," Jones said. "Clearly there are people who think we ought to prohibit subdivisions outside the urban growth area."

The county also has proposed regulations that would eliminate the 5-acre exemption but would give people with 20 or more acres greater ability to build smaller housing developments in the urban growth area without going through the sometimes complicated and expensive rezoning and platting process.

Other rural development regulation proposals concern floodplain management issues.

The Planning Commission will accept written comments about the proposals until noon April 28. No decisions by the Planning Commission are expected until at least May 24. The Lawrence City Commission also will have to approve the regulations.

Comments

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

This does not seem very well thought out. New housing in Douglas County has done nothing but increase personal property taxes. This is the problem I have concerning two governing bodies NOT working together regarding growth. There is no continuity. Raised voices should come from city residential property owners as this affects OUR property tax bills.

Using the old argument "broadening the tax base" is not working. It is expanding/increasing our tax bills. Until we see a marked increase in light industrial we will not see any relief in tax bills. There is new housing all over Lawrence. Far east(east of Harper) Lawrence north of 23rd,SE Lawrence south of 23rd, NW lawrence and south Lawrence there is monster activity yet no news about new jobs to employ these new residents. We need big time high paying employers to bring tax relief.

Rhoen 8 years, 8 months ago

The proposed amendment to eliminate the "five-acre exemption" is simply a way to eliminate established property-owners' rights to build a house for a family member on their land if that land is less than 20 acres. So much for the mother-in-law cottage.

The proposal to allow those with 20+ acres to put in sub-divisions is just another way to let developers profit at the expense of the people who are trying to live a rural life.

This plan does nothing except accelerate the expansion of the arid Johnson County suburban-mall-sprawl with its vapid country-club life-style to the banks of the Wakarusa.

Way to go, planners. We know what's in it for you, but what's in it for us?

How about infrastructure? The low water table south of town? Wasn't there a five-year wait for a water meter a little while back? What about existing regulations relating to county roads?

As it is, there is at least one instance where the County allowed a builder an ad hoc variance to begin developing a subdivision - without any county road frontage, without proper easements across other property-owners' land, without utility easements and without notice to neighboring land-owners.

The proposed regulations appear to have been created in order to rubber-stamp the back-room deals that resulted in that development, not to benefit the residents of the County generally.

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