Is bigger better? When it comes to rural subdivisions, yes, county leaders say.
Rural subdivision regulations favored by the Douglas County Commission would allow 80-acre subdivisions as long as certain requirements are met. A vote by commissioners for a rezoning wouldn't even be necessary.
"That would be absolutely awful," said Betty Lichtwardt, member and spokeswoman for the Land Use Committee of the Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters.
Such a large subdivision destroys rural farmlands, increases traffic and pollution and lures city people to the country who are going to expect city services, Lichtwardt said.
"This is the dumbest approach to planning that there is," she said.
It is the 80-acre subdivision that draws much of the attention from opponents of the county's proposal. Yet Commissioner Charles Jones argues large rural subdivisions can happen now without regulation changes.
"What we're proposing is more restrictive than what is in effect," Jones said.
The county's subdivision proposals are being studied by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission. Public hearings on the regulations were conducted during a meeting last month. Lichtwardt and a few others attended and spoke out against them, primarily because of the large subdivision aspect.
The Planning Commission will continue to discuss the regulations during study sessions this week, but no decisions will be made at least until the May 28 meeting. If approved, the regulations also would have to be approved by the Lawrence City Commission. Changes by any of the governing bodies would cause the debate over the issue to continue.
The regulations refer to subdivisions outside the Urban Growth Area, which is an area of land around the Lawrence city limits that is prime for future annexation.
One of the key provisions for a platted, 80-acre subdivision in a rural area would require it to be along and tied directly to a paved road, and it must be tied into a rural water system.
If a subdivision developer meets the requirements, then approval can be given administratively. Neighbors would still receive notification of the subdivision proposal and could still talk to a county commissioner about it. A commissioner can request that the proposal be discussed by the commission board. That notification process would be better than it is now, Jones said.
Jones maintains the larger subdivision makes more sense than scattered smaller subdivisions outside the UGA, which is becoming more common now.
"There are some who would say I want a flat prohibition (against rural subdivisions)," Jones said. "We've chosen to do it through requirements and economic signals."
The Land Use Committee and the League of Women Voters isn't calling for a blanket ban against rural subdivisions, Lichtwardt said. Smaller, unplatted subdivisions involving three-acre parcels out of a 20-acre area are acceptable, she said.
"It still will cause problems," she said, "but it won't cause the problems of a larger subdivision."