A new Douglas County commissioner wants the county to reconsider a stance it adopted last year on how far regulations would go to protect prime farm ground.
Nancy Thellman made her first major move as a commissioner Wednesday night after she had won a seat in the November election. Thellman had campaigned on protecting prime agricultural soils in the county from industrial development, particularly after an industrial park proposal near the Lawrence Municipal Airport emerged more than a year ago.
“I know this is a point of contention in the community, but it’s because it’s such an important topic,” Thellman said.
The County Commission will discuss during its 8:30 a.m. Monday meeting whether to withdraw the past commission’s unanimous support for a new industrial chapter to the county’s major planning document. The earlier decision leaves open the possibility of industrial development occurring on farm ground near the airport.
Neighbors and other opponents had sought stricter language to make it more difficult to develop there.
Since the first vote, Thellman and Jim Flory have taken over seats for Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney, and Thellman said she wanted the new commission to get a chance to voice its own opinion on the issue.
The Monday morning county meeting becomes important because on Tuesday, Lawrence city commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the same regulations the county had already supported.
For the regulations to become official though, the city has to approve them on a second reading, and if the county withdraws its support the day before, it would draw out the issue further.
Flory said Wednesday that he opposed reopening discussion about the county’s position because he believed McElhaney, Johnson and Charles Jones reached a compromise in that decision.
Jones — the only currently commissioner involved in officially supporting the county’s decision the first time — said he was in an awkward position, but he respected opinions of voters who elected Thellman.
“I’m willing to support revisiting this issue,” he said.
The countywide regulations became a hot topic after a development group proposed building a 144-acre business park near the airport.