Douglas County commissioners cleared the way for the developmentally disabled and their host families to live on a 40-acre farm northeast of Baldwin.
Commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit that allows three houses to be built on property owned by Community Living Opportunities at 2084 N. 600 Road. One house exists on the property.
The Midnight Farm proposal met the requirements needed for a permit and "I think it is the right thing to do," Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said. Commissioners Jere McElhaney and Charles Jones agreed.
"I think it was well thought out and will be well-managed," McElhaney said.
Jones noted that under county regulations anyone could put four houses on the property.
"It's not right to create a higher standard for CLO," he said.
Several people showed up to oppose the CLO proposal, however.
"I just think it is in the wrong place," said Ron Wright, one of those who expressed his concerns. "Most of these clients are going to be needing services in Lawrence."
Wright also said he thought the CLO project would lead to increased traffic problems and dangers in the area. He disagreed with CLO's contention that the development would have a minimal effect on traffic.
CLO clients will be able to use walking trails, work with livestock and enjoy a swimming pool at the site.
But Jack Souders, another neighbor, questioned whether CLO staff would have the training necessary to handle livestock and farm machinery, especially in emergencies.
Mike Strouse, CLO's chief executive officer, said people with developmental disabilities should have the chance to live on a farm and enjoy rural areas.
"We're just trying to make a place for people to have a lifestyle that they didn't have before," Strouse said.
A conditional use permit must be reviewed by the county in five years and expires in 10 years.