Nearly eight years after it was formed, the ECO2 Commission's effort to identify potential industrial sites and preserve open space is starting to pay off.
A proposal for a conservation easement covering 256 acres at the Baldwin Woods site was unveiled Wednesday night during the Douglas County Commission meeting.
The cost to Douglas County and the city of Lawrence to obtain the easement would be more than $450,000.
"How are we going to get the money? How are we going to fund it?" County Commission Chairman Bob Johnson said. "I'm not saying we shouldn't do it."
The site involves two tracts of land east of East 1600 Road and north of North 450 Road, or about 1.5 miles north of Baldwin City. One tract is owned by Ray Wilber and Cathy Dwigans and the second tract is owned by John and Gloria Hood, Wilber and Dwigans. ECO2 Chairwoman Trudy Rice noted that the owners are participating voluntarily.
Under the proposal, the land would be preserved and protected from future development. The city of Lawrence and the county must decide whether to purchase the land under an agreement that leaves the owners as caretakers. Kansas Land Trust appraised the land and other costs involved with an easement, which total $576,000.
Also under the agreement, the landowners would donate 19.4 percent of the total, leaving the county and the city to come up with the remainder of the purchase price.
The proposal was presented earlier this month to Lawrence City Commission. No decisions were made then, and the county also held off on a decision.
ECO2 was formed in 2000 when the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce initiated an effort to develop long-term planning for industrial and business space with a special commission. The ECO2 Commission evolved into an eight-member group appointed by the county and city commissioners.
ECO2's job was to develop a procedure of objective selection of industrial and open space sites.
ECO2 also released a list of 12 potential industrial sites and rated them by scores based on certain criteria. Areas included on the list were around Lawrence Municipal Airport, Midland Junction, north and south of Kansas Highway 10 east of Eudora and the former Farmland fertilizer plant.
ECO2 representatives said the scores were not meant as a ranking of sites, adding that it was up to the city and county to make that determination.
County commissioners commended ECO2 for its efforts. But County Commissioner Charles Jones expressed concern that the ECO2 site scores could be misconstrued as rankings by people who see them.