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Archive for Monday, December 10, 2012

Agritourism, special event permits back on county agenda

December 10, 2012

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Douglas County commissioners will try again this week to reach agreement on zoning regulation language that would allow property owners in unincorporated parts of the county to obtain permits for agritourism-related businesses and special events.

The commission will consider those issues when it meets at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday in the courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

The first item would allow people to set up “agritourism” businesses on agricultural property. Those include businesses such as horseback riding, bed and breakfasts, and farm winery tours. They also could include businesses that host “assembly” events such as weddings and receptions.

The proposed special event permits would be similar, except they would apply to single events or short-term activities.

According to county planning officials, many of those uses are allowed now, but if they engage in additional retail sales — selling T-shirts or souvenirs, for example — they need commercial zoning or a conditional use permit.

The proposed regulations are meant to make it easier for those business owners if they register as an agritourism business with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Commissioner Jim Flory has expressed concern about assembly events that would routinely draw large crowds in rural areas. He is insisting on language that would trigger public notice and a review by the County Commission for agritourism permits that would draw crowds of 100 or more people. He also wants language requiring that any farm buildings, such as barns or outbuildings, used for assembly events comply with county building codes.

In other business, the commission will:

• Consider a petition to allow Rural Water District No. 2 to attach about a quarter section of land south of the city limits to the water district’s territory so it can provide water to a wetlands area as required under conditions to build the South Lawrence Trafficway.

• Consider approving a heritage conservation plan for submission to the Kansas State Historical Society to designate Douglas County as a certified local government.

The commission will also conduct a work session beginning at 4 p.m. to discuss issues regarding the county’s capital improvements project.

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