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Planning Commission to review airport issue again


This week offers another chance for area residents to dive into the debate about whether agricultural ground near the Lawrence Municipal Airport should be developed in the future.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will once again take up the topic of how much protection the city and county should give to prime agricultural soils.

The topic has been a hot one after plans to build an industrial or business park project on property near the airport surfaced about a year ago.

The city and county are in the process of developing a new chapter for Horizon 2020 that addresses what areas of the county are suitable for future industrial park development. Neighbors near the airport have been lobbying for language that puts more restrictions on what could be built on the prime agricultural soils near the airport.

At their Wednesday evening meeting, planning commissioners will consider the latest version. In this latest version, the plans encourage only development of “soil conserving agri-industry businesses that will protect the high quality agricultural land by either utilizing it for agricultural production or preserving it for future agricultural use.”

Planning commissioners meet at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. In other Planning Commission business:

• Commissioners will consider amendments to the city’s development code that will permit churches to serve as temporary homeless shelters.

In February, city commissioners expressed general support for the idea. The need for a change to the development code came about after Family Promise, a nonprofit organization of volunteers, began using churches across the community to house homeless families with children.

The new development code provisions would give churches an automatic right to serve as a homeless shelter, as long as they limited the number of people who could stay in the churches, and limit the total length of time that the church would be used as a shelter.

Neighborhood groups had asked the churches to go through the city’s special use permit process, rather than being given an automatic right to serve as a shelter.

The current proposal would allow for churches to house up to 15 people for no more than 120 days per calendar year.

• Plans to create a new nature-based conference center and corporate retreat between Lawrence and Lecompton are getting a new twist. Matthew Gough, an attorney for Rockwall Farms, L.C., is asking the Planning Commission to initiate an amendment to Horizon 2020 that would make it clear that “conference, recreation, or tourism facilities” are an appropriate use for rural portions of Douglas County, as long as the facilities have proper road access, water supplies, and are properly designed. Horizon 2020 currently doesn’t have any provisions for conference centers or resorts in the rural area.

Planning commissioners also meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Commissioners will consider a unique request to allow laboratory space to occupy the second floor of the building at 647 Mass. Members of the Fritzel family, who are partners in the building, are seeking a special use permit for the laboratory space. The space would be designed to attract companies looking to do cancer research in the community as part of KU’s efforts to achieve National Cancer Institute designation.

The building’s ownership group, GCB Holdings, has not identified what tenant it hopes to land for the building.

The planning staff is recommending approval of the request, subject to several conditions. Those include: • No manufacturing or production activities on site; • No radioisotopes or other radioactive materials shall be used on site; • No known type 1 mutagens or carcinogens shall be used on site; • No known toxins or pathogens shall be used on site; • No animal research shall be conducted on site.

City commissioners ultimately will make the final decision on whether to issue the permit for the laboratory.


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