Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2008

City Commissioners approve plan for county’s future industrial development

September 10, 2008


All that was missing was the Farmer's Almanac.

Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday dove into a discussion about the future of farming, as they approved a plan outlining what areas of the county are suitable for future industrial development.

Commissioners said they were interested in protecting prime pieces of Douglas County farmland, but said they were not comfortable creating regulations that would prohibit industrial development from occurring on the high-producing cropland.

As part of a rewriting of the city and county's comprehensive plan - Horizon 2020 - commissioners agreed to add language to the document that requires land-use decisions on future industrial projects to "balance the agricultural significance" of a site "against the need for industrial and employment-related development."

Several area residents, however, had hoped for a stronger statement. Commissioners heard about an hour's worth of public comment urging them to adopt language stating industrial development should not occur on prime farmland.

The issue has been a hot one as neighbors have fought a proposed industrial park development on farmland near the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

"I believe to turn this agricultural land into an industrial area would be like crushing the Hope Diamond into an industrial abrasive," said Charles Novogradac, who owns a tree farm near the proposed industrial site.

Residents said taking strong action to protect prime farmland - ground rated as class 1 or 2 by the Natural Resources Conservation Service - was the environmentally responsible action to take.

But some commissioners said the issue wasn't so simple. Commissioner Rob Chestnut, for example, said an employment center that provided jobs for hundreds of people could be an improvement to the environment as well if it reduced the number of Lawrence residents who commuted to Kansas City on a daily basis.

"There shouldn't be an absolute litmus test on whether a piece of ground is in or out as an industrial site," Chestnut said.

Commissioners approved the changes to Horizon 2020 on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Boog Highberger was opposed.

Although the new Horizon 2020 language references the area near the airport as suitable for industrial development, that doesn't mean the current proposal has been approved. Commissioners have failed to approve the 145 acre project, citing concerns about drainage and infrastructure costs associated with it.

The plan also references 10 other areas as being suitable for industrial development. Those areas include two near Eudora, three in southern Douglas County along U.S. Highway 56, and the former Farmland Industries site east of Lawrence.


Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

What should have transpired was strict guidelines determining whether or not a project would in fact pay back the taxpayers.Sprawl is the result of over five decades of subsidies paid for by the American taxpayer. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town. We've subsidized sprawl at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of sprawling development.How we subsidize sprawl: * building new and wider roads * building schools on the fringe * extending sewer and water lines to sprawling development * extending emergency services to the fringe * direct pay-outs to developersHow do we subsidize sprawl? Through an array of state, local and federal programs-and through incentives built into the develop-ment process itself. The biggest federal contribution to sprawl is the billions of dollars spent on building new roads. Over the past 50 years, we have built almost 4 million miles of highways. This massive network of roads has done more than speed us from point A to point B - it has reshaped the landscape by opening up rural areas to suburban development and it has reshaped our society by making the car king. Travel by car has become not just another option-in too many places, it has become the only option.Other federal programs are also encouraging sprawl. For years we have subsidized construction in flood plains while making it far too easy to destroy critical wetlands. This encourages the destruction of open spaces and adds to the pressure to sprawl.Sprawl subsidies are also built into the development process itself. Most new, sprawling development costs more to build and service than the taxes or fees it generates. When a new residential or commercial development is built outside of an existing community, roads, sewer systems and water lines have to be built. As the development expands, it requires schools and emergency services. Where does the money for all this come from? In most cases, neither the developers nor the new residents pay their full, fair share - it is the rest of us who make up the difference. The bottom line is that new development is costing us money.

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