Douglas County Commission to consider approving comprehensive plan

photo by: Chris Conde

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will consider approving a comprehensive plan for the county and the City of Lawrence.

The commission received its first look at the plan, known as Plan 2040, last week and did not propose any changes. The plan outlines how the city and county will consider development and land use in the future.

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

The plan’s proposed goals for the county include preserving “the visual distinction between urban and rural areas” and protecting the “rural character” of the parts of the county outside of Lawrence’s urban growth area. It also includes goals of minimizing the conversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses and maintaining workable land and high-quality soil for future generations.

County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said last week that she was impressed with how the plan “really does honor our rural community and our natural resources in ways that are incredibly important.” She said she especially appreciated the plan’s focus on preservation of workable agricultural land.

If the county signs off on it, Plan 2040 will replace the current plan, Horizon 2020. The Lawrence City Commission approved Plan 2040 during its meeting on Oct. 1.

In other business, the commission will consider applying for federal funds to buy out three flood-prone properties in the county.

Chad Voigt, Douglas County deputy director of public works, previously told the commission that recent flooding events allowed the county to apply for the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to remove flooded or flood-prone structures. The program offers federal funding to cover 75% of a property’s fair market value and project costs, such as required asbestos inspections.

Of eight properties in Douglas County that qualified for the program, three have asked the county to pursue a buyout through the program, Voigt said in a memo to the commission. If the commission approves it, the county will send letters of intent to the Kansas Department of Emergency Management on behalf of the homeowners to apply for the federal program. If approved by the Kansas office, the applications would be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in April 2020.

Voigt said the remaining 25% of the funding needed for each property buyout would be provided by the homeowner and in-kind services from county staff, such as demolition of flood-prone structures. No county funds would be used for buyouts, he said.

The commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Full agendas are available online at douglascountyks.org.


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