Plans for a 209-acre retreat for hunters, birdwatchers and corporate clients south of Lawrence are drawing fire from neighbors concerned about losing the area’s rural nature.
Tonight, Douglas County commissioners will consider a request to rezone the area known as Sadies Lake for rural tourism uses, a list that could include hunting, lodging, conferences and a variety of agricultural uses.
Mike Treanor, a member of the property’s ownership group that includes Lawrence businessman Doug Compton, said that any development would provide a “very light touch:” walking, hiking and horse trails, some cabins and perhaps a conference center for corporate retreats.
“We are all about preserving the natural, rural character that’s out there, and that we do it in a considerate and intelligent, planned way,” said Treanor, a Lawrence architect. “Doing any development out there would be in character with the rural nature of the area.”
But Newton McCluggage, who lives on 140 acres to the south of the property, isn’t buying it.
He’s among several property owners to sign a petition protesting the rezoning, a document that would require all three commissioners to approve the measure for it to be enacted.
McCluggage already hears the gunfire from folks using the property for hunting and isn’t excited about the prospect of more people visiting the land whose owners have plans for as 13 cabins, a 12,000-square-foot conference center and perhaps projects allowed within the new zoning category.
“‘Rural tourism’ is just a euphemism for just a plain old business,” said McCluggage, a retired physician who moved from the Kansas City area 17 years ago. “He can build anything: a railroad station, a hotel, motel, any kind of things. A vineyard … for yuppie environmentalists.
“It changes the rural character of the area, and based on some of his previous developments, there’s no telling what he’ll build out there. By rezoning it, he can do pretty much anything he wants out there.”
Not exactly, said Mike Gaughan, a county commissioner. Under rural tourism zoning — a new zoning category drafted by planners and approved by Gaughan and his fellow commissioners, Jim Flory and Nancy Thellman — any development would need to be approved by commissioners on a site plan.
And such a site plan would need to meet the zoning’s standard as being rural in character.
“They’d have to maintain that rural character,” Gaughan said. “As long as they’d be interested in creating an environment where people could enjoy the environment, and participate in activities, that would normally be available in the rural environment, then that would meet the general scope of what we’re looking for.”
The property is at 778 E. 1300 Road, about 4.5 miles south of Lawrence and less than a quarter-mile east of the new alignment for U.S. Highway 59. The property is near Pleasant Grove, about two miles south of Wells Overlook.
The issue is scheduled for the evening portion of the commission’s regular weekly meeting, which begins at 6:35 p.m. at the county courthouse, 1100 Mass.