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Archive for Sunday, September 17, 2006

Commissioners tackling significant revisions to rural development

September 17, 2006

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Regulations that affect how rural areas develop have been reviewed and overhauled during the past year by the Douglas County Commission.

Amendments to those regulations will change some aspects of how rural subdivisions are built and lead to a more orderly urban growth process, commissioners said.

"By any standard, these are significant advances over current rural development requirements," Commissioner Charles Jones wrote in a memorandum to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.

Jones and Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney earlier this year sent their revised regulations to the Planning Commission for additional study, and the Lawrence City Commission also will tackle the issue before the revisions can go into effect.

Some of the key aspects of the revised regulations include establishing how far buildings and houses can be placed back from roadways; disallowing septic systems within the 100-year flood plain; and installing mechanisms to preserve heritage sites and geographically sensitive land.

A few differences remain to be worked out between the planning and county commissions, but both entities have remained optimistic about finding resolutions.

County commissioners also are working with the city in finding a buyer and outlining uses for the former Farmland Industries chemical plant along Kansas Highway 10 on the southeast edge of Lawrence.

Other entities, such as the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and the ECO2 Committee, are working with the county and city in finding a sites for a mix of green space and industry or business.

The ability of the current county commission to "reach across the table" to other entities, including governments in the cities of Eudora, Baldwin and Lecompton, has been one of its main strengths, McElhaney said.

"That's kind of an intangible, behind-the-scene thing, but it is something that will speak volumes for the citizens five or 10 years from now," he said.

County commissioners in recent months have been trying to work with Jefferson County in coming up with a process for repairing the Kansas River bridge at Lecompton. The bridge is a key link for the Lecompton and Perry communities.

The two counties, however, disagree on whether the bridge should be closed or left open during the months it will take for repairs to be made. Jefferson County wants the bridge left open, while Douglas County wants it closed. A decision needs to be made by fall for repair work to start next year, engineers have said.

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