Douglas County Commission to get first look at comprehensive plan on development

photo by: Chris Conde

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

The Douglas County Commission will soon get its first look at a proposed plan that outlines how the county and City of Lawrence will consider development in the future.

During its meeting on Wednesday, the commission will receive a presentation on Plan 2040, a comprehensive plan that covers Lawrence and the unincorporated areas of Douglas County. The presentation is the first step of the commission’s consideration of adopting the plan, which was recently approved by the Lawrence City Commission.

The county portion of the plan focuses on how to consider development in the rural parts of Douglas County, which commissioners have previously said they wanted to slow down after a dramatic increase in development in 2018.

Tonya Voigt, zoning director for the county, previously said the proposed Plan 2040 shared that vision by encouraging development to remain in the city or the Urban Growth Area, a designated development area surrounding Lawrence city limits for the purposes of efficient growth.

The plan’s proposed goals for the county include conserving “the visual distinction between urban and rural areas” throughout the county and protecting the “rural character” of the parts of the county outside that growth area, according to the proposed plan in the commission’s meeting agenda.

Although the current plan, Horizon 2020, shares that view, the proposed plan calls for the county to consider adopting new zoning and land division regulations that align with those goals. The county has already started developing new zoning regulations, even though the plan has not yet been approved. But the commission will likely finish consideration of Plan 2040 before instituting the new zoning regulations, which are expected to be finalized in early 2020.

The county goals in the proposed plan also include minimizing the conversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses and maintaining workable lands and high-quality soils for future generations.

The Lawrence City Commission approved Plan 2040 during its meeting on Oct. 1, sending it to the County Commission for review. Once approved by the county, Plan 2040 will replace Horizon 2020. Changes made by either the city or county will go back to the Planning Commission.

During the city’s consideration of the plan, commissioners focused on a new growth policy that prioritizes infill development and adds requirements for developers who want to expand the city’s boundaries, according to Journal-World reporting.

In other business Wednesday, the County Commission will consider two appeals to approved certificates of survey. A certificate of survey is an application to subdivide a parcel of land that is 20 acres or larger into smaller residential lots.

The appeals are the first the commission will consider since it instituted a six-month moratorium on processing new applications in August. Both applications were submitted and administratively approved by county staff before the moratorium was in place, but commissioners said residents could still file appeals to those applications.

The commission will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Full agendas are available online at

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