The horizon just got a little bit clearer for supporters of Horizon 2020’s new environmental chapter in its current state.
Douglas County commissioners voted Wednesday 2-1 to approve an amendment to comprehensive plan Horizon 2020, adding on the new chapter.
The vote went forward despite significant public comment against the motion.
Work on Chapter 16, the environmental chapter, first began in 2008. The chapter is intended to put into effect new environmental regulations around the county, ranging from protecting floodplains, limiting removal of prairie grasses and wooded areas and improving air quality.
However, many Douglas County residents said at the meeting that not enough people had been involved in the planning process and that many rural residents weren’t aware of the new regulations that could be headed their way.
The chapter would bring about 124 new or modified environmental regulations to Douglas County.
Mary Ross, of Nunemaker-Ross Farms northeast of Lawrence, said she was concerned about her land and hoped to keep it so it would become her children’s and grandchildren’s heritage. However, she disagreed with the idea of using taxpayer dollars to further regulate her land.
“We are already highly regulated by many governmental agencies,” she said at the meeting. “It seems that our personal property rights would be seriously eroded.”
Many rural landowners expressed exasperation that they were not involved in the development process of Horizon 2020.
Members of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission said they invited stakeholders to take part in planning, including many groups that would intersect rural interests.
Commissioner Mike Gaughan voted to approve the chapter because he said he didn’t see any benefit in rehashing it again. Gaughan said everyone involved, from landowners to county officials, would have to compromise a little on the chapter.
“Almost nobody’s happy with every single word of this,” he said.
Commissioner Nancy Thellman also voted to approve it. Commission Chairman Jim Flory wanted to keep the issue open for further discussion on each section.
“I don’t think we’ve had the chance to discuss it,” Flory said. “Three years in the making, it’s a quantum leap in potential regulation.”
Approval by the County Commission means the chapter will be sent ahead for approval at the Lawrence City Commission.
Both bodies must approve the chapter as is by a majority for it to be added in its current state to the comprehensive plan. If the city recommends changes, the document could go back to the county or even the Planning Commission.
To see draft of the approved chapter, visit douglas-county.com/online_services/ad/docs/pdf/agenda_packets/2011/04-13-11.pdf.