Douglas County Commission plans to raise mill levy, denies storage facility permit

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

From left, Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman, Commission Chair Michelle Derusseau and Commission Vice Chair Patrick Kelly discuss a conditional use permit during their meeting on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday approved their 2020 budget for publication with a mill levy increase that is slightly smaller than what they discussed the week prior.

Interim County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said a change in the zoning department’s budget lowered the required mill levy to fund what commissioners had determined they wanted to include in the 2020 budget. The increase the commission approved is .379, which raises the mill levy from 46.015 to 46.394.

With that set, the owner of a $200,000 home will pay the county about $1,067 in property taxes next year — roughly a $9 increase from 2019. The commission can not raise the mill levy after approval for publication. They will hold a public budget hearing on Aug. 14.

Commission denies permit for EZ Storage

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Anthony Fanello, owner of property at 1803 East 1200 Road, speaks to the Douglas County Commission during its meeting on July 17, 2019. Behind him is Lawrence architect Lance Adams.

Commissioners denied a property owner’s request to build a boat storage and ministorage facility north of Lawrence.

However, the discussion on the subject raised bigger questions about zoning, what property owners can do, and how people ought to be notified of changes to the zoning or future zoning of their properties based on comprehensive plans such as Horizon 2020 and Horizon 2040.

Anthony Fanello, owner of the property at 1803 East 1200 Road, and Lawrence architect Lance Adams addressed the commission. Adams said that Fanello and a friend had purchased the property hoping to build two houses on the land, but they were unable to do so because of restrictions set by Horizon 2020 and future zoning established for the site.

The plan for EZ Storage was submitted in hopes of finding a use for the property: “It’s been quite the process to figure out what it is that can be built there,” Fanello told the commission. “… Right now, it’s just agriculture, and I’m not a farmer.”

Commission Chair Michelle Derusseau pointed out maps in the agenda materials, which showed that the properties south of East 1800 Road are in land with future zoning for heavy industrial uses, and some north of the road have future zoning for office and research use. She asked a few of the neighbors who showed up to speak against the permit request whether they had been notified that the future zoning of their properties had changed; all three said no.


Planner Mary Miller told the commission that the city and county had previously agreed to regard Horizon 2020 as code, but it could be amended. Commission Vice Chair Patrick Kelly, who serves on the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Commission, said he has always been told that the comprehensive plans were considered “dynamic” documents that are always changing, and he was disappointed that they were viewed as code.

The commissioners directed planning staff to try to help Fanello find a way to use the land that would work, though none was in favor of the storage facility concept.

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