Despite lifting moratorium, Douglas County has not received any applications to subdivide land under new codes

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse at 1100 Massachusetts St., which houses the county government, is shown on Sept. 15, 2018.

Although Douglas County recently lifted a monthslong pause on processing requests to subdivide land in the rural parts of the county, residents have not yet taken advantage of it.

Tonya Voigt, the director of zoning for the county, said Friday that no applications have been submitted since a moratorium on processing the applications was lifted on March 22.

The lack of requests could be because of the county’s newly installed regulations on subdividing land, which include a new step in the process that allows the public to weigh in. But it could also be because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has stymied many aspects of life in Douglas County.

“I’m not sure why we haven’t seen a rush of certificate of survey requests,” Voigt said. “I think the pandemic may be slowing life changes in general as we all hunker down and wait.”

Some did expect a rush of applications when the moratorium expired. Several rural residents who spoke to the County Commission in February said they feared an onslaught of applications for certificates of survey was on the horizon.

Certificates of survey are applications to the county to allow residents to subdivide large parcels of land into smaller lots. Currently, under the new regulations, residents are required to rezone their property when applying to subdivide their land. That requires approval from the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Commission, which allows the public to appeal such development.

Prior to the new regulations, the certificates of survey were administratively approved by county staff and did not include a clear public appeal process.

The County Commission in August placed a six-month halt on the processing of the applications to give county staff time to develop new zoning regulations. The new codes were partly pursued because of a drastic increase in rural development that went against the county’s view of how the rural land should be used.

The moratorium was originally scheduled to expire on Feb. 21. But on Feb. 19, when the commissioners approved the new regulations, they also extended the moratorium for another month to give the City of Lawrence time to approve joint city-county subdivision codes that were affected by the county’s new zoning regulations.

However, several residents told the commissioners at the time that they wanted the moratorium to be extended even longer.

Myles Schachter, a rural resident and former planning commissioner, asked the County Commission to extend it another six months. He said he believed the new regulations weren’t restrictive enough and lifting the moratorium would be “opening up the floodgates” for more land subdivision in the rural parts of the county.

But so far that has not been the case.

“We’ve had a couple of inquiries for certificates of survey, but no official applications yet,” Voigt said.

Related coverage

Aug. 18, 2019: ‘Shocking’ increase of residential development in rural parts of Douglas County likely to bring code changes

Sept. 18, 2019: Douglas County Commission hears proposal to change county’s rules for dividing rural land

Dec. 1, 2019: Douglas County’s proposed zoning code changes heading to Planning Commission soon

Dec. 16, 2019: Residents of Big Springs voice opposition to Douglas County’s proposed zoning regulation changes

Jan. 24, 2020: Planning Commission approves proposed county zoning regulation changes after revising Big Springs district

Feb. 19, 2020: Douglas County Commission authorizes new zoning regulations, expects county staff to continue refining them

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