Whether Lawrence wants to be led by a gray-haired guide became a topic of discussion Tuesday night at City Hall.
At their Tuesday evening meeting, city commissioners began questioning whether the city's guiding plan for growth and development— Horizon 2020 — is nearing the end of its useful life. Commissioners unanimously agreed to form a new task force that will seek input on whether now is the time to start working to create a new comprehensive plan.
“It has some age on it,” City Commissioner Bob Schumm said of the Horizon 2020 plan. “It has gray hair.”
The issue started out with a question about how closely the City Commission must follow Horizon 2020. Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously rejected a proposal that would have opened the door for rezoning requests to be approved by the City Commission even if a request ran counter to provisions in the city's comprehensive plan.
Instead, commissioners focused on creating a task force that would study creating a new comprehensive plan to guide the city's growth for the next 15 to 20 years.
“I want to make sure Horizon 2020 is relevant tomorrow and five years from now,” Mayor Mike Dever said. “I want to hear what problems people are having with Horizon 2020.”
The commission on Tuesday did not name any members for the new task force, other than agreeing to appoint Commissioner Mike Amyx to lead the group. Dever said he envisions the task force being made up of residents and stakeholders. The task force likely will have to expand beyond Lawrence. Horizon 2020 is a joint comprehensive plan that also guides the rural areas of Douglas County.
Amyx said he believed the task force likely could answer many of the basic questions surrounding the future of Horizon 2020 in about three months. But if the task force ultimately recommends creating a new comprehensive plan — perhaps Horizon 2040 — it would be a major undertaking. When Horizon 2020 was drafted in the early 1990s, it involved a multiyear process that included a steering committee and dozens of subcommittees that gathered comment on everything from agricultural land uses to urban growth patterns.
The city's two newest commissioners — recently elected Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan — both said they were open to the idea of creating a new comprehensive plan, in part, because the number of amendments proposed for Horizon 2020 seems to be growing.
“I feel like we are kind of treating Horizon 2020 like used to treat our streets. We would patch and patch and patch, and then finally we decided we needed to do something different,” Farmer said.
Commissioners, though, weren't ready to approve the proposed text amendment that would have allowed rezonings to be approved even if they ran counter to Horizon 2020. City ordinance currently says rezonings must be in compliance with the city's comprehensive plan. Rezoning requests that aren't in compliance must first seek to change the city's comprehensive plan, a process that has been criticized by developers as unwieldy.
In other city business, commissioners:
• agreed to submit a grant application for $900,000 in state funding to improve the intersection of 23rd Street and Haskell Avenue in 2015. The city should know whether it was awarded the grant later this year.
• approved a street vendor license for Simply Franks, a hot dog stand that will be located at the southwest corner of 10th and Massachusetts streets. Jordan Kivett, an Overland Park resident and prospective Kansas University student, will run the stand. He said he hopes to be open from about noon to 9 p.m. on most days, but likely would stay open later on Friday and Saturday nights.