Archive for Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Planning partnership intact for now

County urges quick city approval of regulations

December 5, 2006


Douglas County commissioners on Monday dismissed concerns that they are ready to break a partnership with the city of Lawrence when it comes to development planning.

During a meeting with Lawrence Mayor Mike Amyx, Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said ending that partnership was "clearly not in the best interest" of the city and county.

County commissioners, however, said that it is important for revised subdivision and rural development regulations to be adopted by the end of the year. An 18-month county moratorium prohibiting the issuance of building permits on properties smaller than 10 acres has been in effect long enough, commissioners said. That moratorium was put into effect while new regulations were being developed.

"There are citizens in the county who are more or less waiting on government action," Commissioner Jere McElhaney said.

Both the city and county commissions need to approve the revised regulations before they go into effect. But last week county commissioners said they felt strongly enough about the documents that they were willing to adopt the regulations for unincorporated areas without the city agreeing to them. That would mean that the county would have one set of regulations for rural areas and the city would have another.

Last week during a study session involving the city and planning commissioners, County Counselor Evan Ice emphasized the need for action on the regulations. His comments were construed as an ultimatum about possible dissolution of that planning partnership.

"That would be unfortunate," City Commissioner David Schauner said after the meeting.

On Monday, county commissioners emphasized that they will continue to work with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and share the planning department staff.

But if the county decides to act on its own, it would not be setting a precedent. The action would be similar to the situation that developed 12 years ago when the city adopted the Horizon 2020 document before the county was ready to do so. Horizon 2020 is now the comprehensive land-use plan for the city and county.

Amyx said he intended to put the revised regulations before city commissioners for a vote before the end of the year. But city and planning commissioners do have questions about certain issues in the regulations the county approved.

Among those issues are the number of houses to be allowed on 10- or 20-acre parcels in the rural area; how large parcel property divisions will be made in the urban growth area around the city; and implementing land conservation easements on parcels in the urban growth area.

Amyx and commissioners agreed to establish a committee of city, county and planning commissioners to discuss those issues. Amyx and County Commissioner Charles Jones agreed to be on the committee. Others who will be asked whether they can serve on the committee are City Commissioner Boog Highberger and Planning Commissioners Grant Eichhorn and Lisa Harris, Amyx and Jones said.

"I think we can make the process work and I think we can reach a reasonable conclusion," Amyx said.

"I think we just need to clarify and make clear the intent" of the regulations, Jones said.


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