Commission OKs rezoning request for therapeutic ranch

The dream of a therapeutic ranch for young adults with autism is one step closer to reality.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday approved a zoning request filed by the Mid-American Association for Autistic Therapy and Research for 31 acres on the southeast corner of the Lawrence metropolitan zone, 1674 N. 1000 Road.

The MAATR request to change the parcel from agriculture to rural tourism in zoning had been approved, but with the condition of a 200-foot buffer on all sides. At the Wednesday meeting, director Harry McLear requested a 100-foot buffer. Commissioners Mike Gaughan and Jim Flory passed the rezoning request with 100-foot buffers. Commissioner Nancy Thellman was not present at the meeting.

The group’s preliminary plans for the site include adding four cabins for overnight stays and an activity center for art therapy. It plans to use pre-existing structures for riding therapy.

Rick Andrews owns property to the north and is the contract purchaser for the land in question. Reached on Tuesday, Andrews said ownership plans were not finalized, though he expressed support for the project. Also on Tuesday, McLear said that, with approval, he hoped final steps in planning could take place within six months.

In other business, the commission approved a proclamation of Monday through Friday as National 4-H Week.

The commission meets again at 4 p.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the County Courthouse, 1100 Mass.