Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman is pondering a proposed moratorium on all new industrial development applications outside Lawrence Municipal Airport in Grant Township.
The commissioner says she’s responding to a Manhattan-based company’s decision this week to withdraw its plan for a sand-dredging operation near Midland Junction north of Lawrence. She said a moratorium would not include projects ongoing at the airport.
“I’m not looking for years and years of delay. I’m just looking for a moment to study the situation and plan,” she said.
Thellman said much work and many dollars were put into the sand facility proposal before the company had to withdraw it.
Midwest Concrete Materials pulled its application for a facility on 310 acres after the Federal Aviation Administration said a lake on the site would attract migratory birds, which the FAA said are dangerous within 10,000 feet of the airport.
City officials were concerned FAA’s stance could endanger federal grant funding for the airport. Midwest Concrete Materials officials said they believed the facility, planned more than a mile from the airport, would have been safe, but they are looking for a new site.
Thellman said the county should study the FAA’s stance to find out what ramifications it could have — on new farm ponds, for example, and other features.
“I think in fairness to the folks who are speculating, planners and developers alike, they need to understand what the new wrinkle is and what it means,” she said.
County Commissioner Jim Flory on Wednesday said such a hold might go too far.
“I’ll be a hard-sell on a moratorium,” he said.
Thellman, a Grant Township resident, has urged the county to protect prime agricultural land in opposition to a 2007 industrial development plan near the airport. But she says she sees a moratorium as a way to make the planning process more fair to developers.
“It’s not a soil issue. It’s an airport issue,” Thellman said.