Archive for Sunday, May 7, 2006

Critics say big subdivisions are fraught with problems

May 7, 2006


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."


Richard Heckler 12 years ago

These big subdivisions could easily increase property taxes as most other housing projects have done in Douglas County. This is not planning. This is saying yes to the housing industry which dominated our City Commission and Planning Commission for more than a decade. The end result has been inflated property values thus higher taxes. The housing industry proved they could make bundles of money,raise our property taxes and were not good planners. These were the people in charge who promoted Lawrence and raised the cost of living significantly.

Actually the League of Women Voters is a mix of political parties who study issues in depth. This group of men and women are quite selective in matters they choose for debate.

average 12 years ago

80 acres. That's 20-30 blocks. Many of these subdivisions are packed full of houses. That's a fully-functional town in most of Kansas. I think as a requirement for zoning, they should have to admit that they aren't just some farm and file for municipal incorporation. Hire their own cop, negotiate for water, etc. Mazel tov, new city!

Oh, yeah. That's what they don't want. They want to be 10 miles from any stores, restaurants, schools, churches. So they can play at country with 500 friends.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

Come on, folks, don't you know that growth is always good? Enough of the nitpicking details and get with the program.

ASBESTOS 12 years ago

Who wants these developements and makes money off of them?


Who wants to pay lower labor costs and support the expolitation of illegal workers?

Developers and contractors.

These are the same guys that want to waltz around every environmental , health, and safety law that exists, because they are too expensive.

Who are the friends of politicians and why?

The developers and contractors, because the politician can point to something and state " I made this happen", (Which he didn't) and "I increased the tax revenue through increasing the worth of the land and property taxes collected, which will lower YOUR tax burder (which it won't).

bjohanning 12 years ago

This is the way things work in Douglas county, it really doesn't matter what we think or say. In the end "Money talks" and the developers and land speculators will get our way and the rest of us will get a golden shower. Our Douglas County planning commissions want development and unplanned, unregulated development is best for their profits and future tax base. In a few years the rural tax rate will put an end to those who have lived and worked in Rural Douglas county for generations. As my neighbor a fifth generation farmer in Southern Douglas county said, "according to the tax man I'm worth over a million dollars, but it is getting harder to make a living here and in the end only the developer will make money from my land."

DaREEKKU 12 years ago

Yay! More pockets of white christian oppression! Just what we need!!!

anonimiss 12 years ago

Has it occured to anyone that the reason people want to move outside of Lawrence is because it is outside of Lawrence? Why pay a sizeable fraction more for a house inside the city when all you get out of it are 2 10% increases in sewer rates in the past 2 years, plus whatever it takes to pay for a $75 million treatment plant, 1/3 of roads that are degenerated beyond repair, and a commission that feels the need to plant more flowers downtown, spend taxpayer money on a firestation that looks like an art gallery, put up roundabouts to solve the traffic problems, undergo a multi-year battle with Wal-Mart which has had to have costed in the millions by the time they gave up, completely replace a library that isn't being fully used, and take up time by declaring nonsense days and bickering about whether pot smoking is a problem.

lunacydetector 12 years ago

the league of women voters is a pawn of the progressives -smart growth = NO growth.

you know it is funny (someone correct me if i'm wrong) but in lawrence about 10+ years ago, the league of women voters was running a polling station during a local/state/national election - i think they may have run them all - but i don't know. of course they are supposedly non-partisan, just as long as you're a democrat (i'm sorry, a "Progressive") -or is that the same thing? that in itself is disingenuous.

lawrence, ks growth UNfriendly = business UNfriendly

Jamesaust 12 years ago

Let's see if I've got this right -- The County wants to allow the functional equivalent of a city subdivision to be built in unincorporated parts of the County but without all the bother of actually being a city, at least not upfront?

And how exactly would one prevent the eventual tens of thousands of people living in these "rural" areas from eventually demanding city-like services? How would one maintain the "rural" character that attracts such people in the first instance? Indeed, how is this plan an improvement over the historical development of such places as eye-sore New Jersey?

If a course of action will predictably urbanize an area, why would anyone be disingenuous by pretending otherwise? What sort of system allows identical activity but under two distinct and unequal sets of rules?

lunacydetector 12 years ago

it is because the city of lawrence is controlled by a bunch of no-growthers who have appointed their no-growth cronies into everything, and the county wants to take advantage of the city's lack of vision for progress (unless of course you think the outdated horizon 2020 is visionary).

hipper_than_hip 12 years ago

This is currently a non-issue, as most of the rural water districts don't have any water meters available. No water = no development.

Richard Heckler 12 years ago

Water meters cannot somehow magically appear? with authorization from the county? or whomever distributes the water?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

"it is because the city of lawrence is controlled by a bunch of no-growthers who have appointed their no-growth cronies into everything"

That'd be a plausible explanation if this were a city initiative-- this is coming from the county. Jones appears to be for it, but I expect that's because he sees it as the best alternative available to the no-holds-barred development his fellow county commissioners would want otherwise.

Ward 12 years ago

Dumb Growth Shopping list: sanitary and storm sewers, repaving the streets, increase in fire/medical/emergency response times, the extra commute for buses, the blight of the distant community once petroleum prices escalate, the cost to install telephone, cable, natural gas lines and the water lines.

This style of potential leap frog development is a holdover from the last century. Check out Smart Growth ideas and learn something about it from the U.S Green Building Council.

Ward 12 years ago

PS Anonimiss roads that are degenerated beyond repair - there will be more to repair outside of the city. This does not go away. a commission that feels the need to plant more flowers downtown - they are trying to salvage downtown and maintain it as a destination for all Lawrencians. spend taxpayer money on a firestation that looks like an art gallery - Should our tax dollars be spent on a piece of poop? completely replace a library that isn't being fully used- if the building no longer functions properly, then of course it wouldn't be fully used. Check out the use of the new Main and Plaza Branch Libraries in KC.

Many of the items you seem to take issue with are attempts by the City to beautify and enhance the City and its experience. Do you have solutions in mind for these problems you've mentioned?

anonimiss 12 years ago

The roads in the city cannot be repaired-they must be completely rebuilt.

Nothing against downtown, but it already has flowers and looks nice-it doesn't need more.

A firestation doesn't need angular walls, sky lights, copper tubing outside the facility, landscaping, and whatever else they put into that building. It needs to function. That's it.

And I find nothing wrong with the library right now. But why do we need to spend more money on a new library, just to renovate (if that's what will be done) the current library and give it to the Parks & Rec department to use?.

If I ran my life the way Lawrence has been run, I'd be broke. Letting 30% of my car go to the point where it can't even be repaired anymore. Spend money on another TV while my toilet isn't working. Buy a shed with a skylight and landscaping. Come to the conclusion I'm tired of my house, so I just buy a new one and give the old one to my brother.

There's not a whole lot wrong with the way the city is being managed, but there's a whole lot wrong with having to pay for it.

anonimiss 12 years ago

By the way, the city is already beautified and enhanced. Do you know of anyone that would rather live in Topeka or Kansas City?

lunacydetector 12 years ago

well bozo, didn't our former mayor, the Generalissimo Boog want to annex everything in the county into the city?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

No, he didn't propose annexing "everything." His proposal was to annex adjacent areas that were appropriate for urban development.

And since it appears to have escaped your notice, this proposal would annex nothing into the city, meaning it would be totally leap-frog development. That isn't particularly efficient when it comes to things like water, sewers, police and fire protection, schools, street building and maintenance and so on and so forth.

Do I need to explain why that is not a good thing?

bugmenot 12 years ago

Did you know critics of puppies say they are fraught with problems. And critics of the word fraught just hate the use of an ancient word such as fraught.

lunacydetector 12 years ago

well bozo, the county is patrolled by the sheriff, not the police, and the fire department is volunteer, the water is rural and the sewer is septic.

hopefully the planning department will be split up again. you guys need to be brought down a notch or two. it would benefit the county greatly.

which is safer in the event of a fire? living in a congested apartment complex, or living in a rural area with wide open spaces? flip a coin. i think most people prefer space. it's really too bad the smart growthers (no growthers) aren't open minded enough to see that people want space, that is why people move to the edge of town or a rural area. i wonder why mr. schauner chose to live in a mansion on the edge of "sprawl?"

anyway, these areas in the county are years and years away from having to be brought under city services. probably not as long as it will take to fill one of those sham industrial parks they are proposing at the expense of me and everyone else in the county, but quite a few years away.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

Your "thought" processes are truly frightening, luny.

Jones 12 years ago

Thanks to "just-another-bozo" for the benefit of the doubt. I can tell you that all three county commissioners support the draft regs, even though none of us got exactly what we want.

Must say that I'm a bit frustrated with the coverage of this story. What's there is accurate, but there is so much more included in the package.

Large subdivisions are a big issue and I certainly understand those who think they shouldn't be allowed in the county. But the fact is, unless a viable protest petition is in play, those subdivisions can be created by a simple majority vote.

Hopefully, additional requirements -- access to paved roads, rural water, and starting with 80 acres -- will create a healthy density, preempt some common problems (such as the impact of dust on neighboring properties), and discourage quick, cheap development that dumps a lot of costs on taxpayers. It's the best we could agree upon re: subdivisions. Still, I can understand why some may be skeptical.

As for the many other elements that have not generated much attention so far:

  • the 5 acre exemption is replaced by two building permits for each 20 acre parent parcel;

  • small devlopments within the UGA must permanently set aside 40% of the acreage for open space;

  • larger developments within the UGA must set aside 40% of the acreage until annexed (then the the city gets to decide how to handle);

  • development within the UGA must meet city stormwater standards, including the city's 2' freeboard;

  • septic systems in the floodplain will be prohibited;

  • the current frontage requirement of 250' for all roads will be replaced with 250' for local road; 330' for minor collector; 500-660' for major collector; 660' for minor arterial; 1320' for principle arterial;

  • every development in the UGA must provide a "build through plan" for efficient and cost effective annexation; and

  • we have asked the Planning Commision to consider mechanisms,such as transferable development rights, to preserve of open space, t & e species, and historic resources.

These are significant advances in management of county growth.

Of course there were trade offs: an administrative -- rather than zoning -- process for approving developments; and the 80 acre subdivision accommodation.

Taken as a whole, however, I think the package represents significant progress. I'm proud of what we -- all three commissioners -- have accomplished.

The process isn't over. We will take seriously comments from the Planning Commission, and hope we can find common ground.

Also hope that you all will look at the total package to measure its strengths and deficiencies.


Charles Jones Dg Co Commissioner

lunacydetector 12 years ago

mr. jones, thank God it isn't one house for every 40 acres.

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