Douglas County Commission to consider development of new rezoning standards to protect agricultural land

photo by: John English/Special to the Journal-World

Farmers harvest a corn field near Lone Star Lake in this file photo from 2017.

County leaders will soon consider moving forward with the creation of a new tool to evaluate rural rezoning requests and protect prime agricultural land.

At its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will decide whether to initiate the process to develop an amendment to the zoning and land use regulations for unincorporated or rural areas. The amendment, once developed and approved, would establish a system and standards to evaluate requests to rezone agricultural land to another use, according to a county planning memo.

The county has already been taking agricultural productivity into account when reviewing requests to rezone agricultural land for other uses under zoning regulations it adopted in February 2020. Those regulations require the county to consider the current or potential productivity of agricultural land as part of its review process, and if the County Commission gives its approval on Wednesday, planning staff would have the green light to begin developing a more formal review process called the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) system.

Since the adoption of the new zoning regulations, planning staff has been working with various groups, including the Natural Resource Conservation Service, to develop parameters for the LESA system. LESA would use various measurements, such as soil surveys, to score properties based on their agricultural productivity or potential productivity. The LESA score would then correlate to a protection score, which would indicate how important it was for the agricultural use of the land to be protected.

The protection score would be one of the review criteria for an agricultural rezoning request, which would be taken into account in the planning department’s recommendation and the ultimate decision by the County Commission.

The County Commission will convene at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for its regular business meeting. The meeting will be open to the walk-in public at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 933 2815 6077.


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