To the editor:
There is a serious omission in the debate over the so-called Airport Industrial Park. One hundred forty years ago, Roger Pine's ancestor shrewdly selected for a farm site a rare kind of soil. This is called "Judson silt loam." It is the best of the best. According to the USDA county soil survey, "Judson" is less than one-tenth of its soil group, the "Eudora-Kimo association," which, overall, comprises only 7 percent of Douglas County. Being deep, easily tilled, well drained, ideal pH, high fertility and high available water capacity, the Pines' particular soil is rated "Capability I-1." There is no better-rated soil.
The omission I referred to is that, according to city planning staff, there is nothing in the Lawrence development code or Horizon 2020 that attaches any particular value to farmland. If the developer wanted to knock down a 140-year-old house, then historic preservation review would come into play. But when the developer wants to subdivide a historic farm and pave over the most productive soil of the region, we have no policy or criteria for review. Exceptional farmland is the heritage of our community no less than old buildings, and there should be some criteria for preservation before we throw it all away.