Douglas County Commission to consider development plan for floodplain area

A plan that outlines future development in an area of Douglas County that has high-quality soil and is in a floodplain will come before the Douglas County Commission on Wednesday evening.

The public can voice its opinion on the Northeast Sector plan, which, if approved, would be added to chapter 14 of Horizon 2020, a comprehensive plan for the future of Douglas County. Most of the city and other parts of the county already have similar plans.

This plan doesn’t change any zoning, but instead lays groundwork for future proposals.

The northeast sector includes about 10,640 acres, with boundaries of the Riverfront Park to the west, North 2100 Road to the north, East 1700 Road to the east, and Lawrence city limits and the river to the south. This area encompasses Grant Township, Lawrence Municipal Airport, as well as some high-quality soils and a floodplain.

Dan Warner, long-range planner at Planning and Development Services, said people in Grant Township largely started the push for the sector plan.

“They’re just trying to help sort out ground use for the future,” he said. “It’s a policy guide for the city and the county when development applications come forward.”

Nancy Thellman, county commissioner who lives in Grant Township, said neighbors have two major issues with development: the presence of Class I and Class II soils, which are the best for agricultural use, and the floodplain in the area, which causes flooding from stormwater in many people’s homes.

Thellman said any development in the area would need significant infrastructure to deal with the flooding. As for the soils, she said the concern was how to protect them.

“We haven’t found the right planning tools yet to do that in a way that satisfies the landowners but also preserves that soil for future generations,” she said.

Where to draw those lines in the plan is what has caused tension, she said.

“We want to honor private landowner rights as much as possible, but ultimately the public welfare must prevail,” she said.

The County Commission will hear the issue and public comment at its meeting, which starts at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday, at the Douglas County Courthouse. If the commission approves the addition of the sector plan, it will go before the City Commission.