It won’t completely prevent industrial development in northeast Lawrence, but, its supporters hope, it will make building in the area a whole lot harder.
The Northeast Sector Plan for future land use in the area, marked by the Kansas River at the south and west, North 2100 Road at the north and East 1700 Road at the east, was approved on a 2-to-1 vote by the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday night.
The plan calls for no new industrial development in the area and keeping it primarily zoned for agriculture. The passed resolution marks action in the planning process, which has been going through committee and public review for more than four years. But it’s not the end of the road; the City Commission will also vote on Comprehensive Plan Amendment CPA-6-5-09, though it’s not yet clear when.
The debate over the amendment, which changes the county and city code for future land use in the area, touched on themes of individual property rights versus collective public good as four members of the public spoke of concerns about flooding homes in North Lawrence and preserving the high-quality class 1 and 2 soil of the agricultural land farther from the city.
Commissioner Jim Flory opposed the amendment on the grounds that the property owners in the sector have the right to self-determine its zoning future and that halting development doesn’t, in fact, protect the area from flooding or stormwater drainage issues or preserve soil types as amendment supporters professed.
“The role of the government should be to give the least restrictive plan possible,” Flory said.
Flory also said that those opposing the plan had “given up” in the long, grueling process of changes proposed by the Planning Commission.
At the last County Commission meeting on the topic, the public comment provided was about evenly split, County Administrator Craig Weinaug said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, four members of the public spoke in support of the measure, each saying that preventing industrial development was the only way to protect North Lawrence homes and existing buildings as well as agricultural strength. The reason for this, said Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association, is the fact that digging, especially in the area around the airport, causes stormwater build-up.
Flory was out-voted by commissioners Mike Gaughan and Nancy Thellman. Gaughan said that the county offered other viable locations for future industrial development, including in the northwest sector, that didn’t threaten existing homes like the northeast sector plan might.
“Our responsibility is to incorporate the rights,” he said, “of all with interests in the area.”
Thellman pointed out that the amendment, even if upheld by the City Commission, does not prevent landowners from proposing development as long as water issues are included in their future plans.
“Our job is more about meeting the greater public interest,” she said.
The commission on Wednesday also approved ending the bidding process and moving forward into the contract stage in a multiyear project to upgrade the public safety radio system in the county. Motorola Solutions was chosen for the civil engineering aspect of the project.
Also on the agenda, the group set June 27 as the date for a public hearing on the adjacent property owners’ contribution of $180,000 to the $1.4 million upgrade for Lake Alvamar. The meeting will be at 6:35 p.m. in the Douglas County Courthouse.