Douglas County Commission to consider more CARES funding reallocations, rural land rezoning requests

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

More changes to Douglas County’s plan to spend federal relief funds for the coronavirus pandemic could be coming soon.

On Wednesday, the County Commission will consider making further reallocations of unspent funds from its $24.9 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act allotment. The county only has the rest of December to ensure the funding is spent. Any money not spent by the end of the year will be lost.

Last week, the commissioners reallocated about $650,000 of the unspent funds to several organizations providing aid for food security and economic, housing and education support. But County Administrator Sarah Plinsky told the commissioners at the time that she expected them to consider more changes this week to make sure all of the funds would be spent.

Prior to reallocating funds, the county received about $3.1 million in requests for additional funding from groups that had already spent the money they were originally allotted.

How much funding is left to be reallocated is not yet clear. County staff told the commissioners last week that many organizations that had received funding had not yet reported their spending. But Plinsky said the county would have a better idea of how much funding would be left on Monday, which was the deadline for reporting what was spent. As of Tuesday afternoon, the commission’s meeting agenda did not include any further information on how much funding was available to be reallocated.

Rezoning requests

During the meeting, the commissioners will also consider two requests to rezone rural properties.

Cody Taylor is seeking to rezone 3.5 acres of land at 145 East 1250 Road from general business to transitional agriculture, also known as Ag-2. The property is located just west of U.S. Highway 59 in southern Douglas County.

According to planning documents, Taylor said he planned to build a home on the property and did not intend to use the land for business purposes. Under the general business zoning, building a home is prohibited. County staff said Taylor was planning to merge the property with its neighboring parcel, which he owns and which is currently zoned as Ag-2.

Elsewhere, Garber Enterprises Inc. is seeking to rezone about 11.5 acres of land at the 1700 block of East 902 Road from cluster development to Ag-2. The property is located just outside of Lawrence’s city limits, north of Rock Chalk Park.

When the county updated its zoning and codes earlier this year, the property was automatically moved to a cluster development zoning because it consists of land within the county’s urban growth area that had been subdivided.

However, Garber Enterprises holds a conditional use permit for the property that does not conform with the cluster development zoning. The permit, which the County Commission awarded in 2017, is for mini-storage use. Planning staff noted that the company had not built the facility yet.

In other business, the commissioners will:

• Consider authorizing a 2021 legislative statement that outlines the county’s priorities for the Kansas Legislature to consider during its upcoming session. A draft of the statement lists the county’s priorities as continued financial support for the planned behavioral health crisis and recovery center and providing funding for the planned expansion of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

• Hear an annual report from Artists Helping the Homeless, an organization that began operating a supportive housing project in Lawrence called the Kairos House in 2019. The county provided about $370,000 of funding support to the project this year.

• Meet for a work session with Gould Evans, a local architecture firm, to discuss a master plan for the county’s downtown Lawrence facilities.

The County Commission will convene at 4 p.m. Wednesday for its work session and 5:30 p.m. 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 924 5591 0788.

Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website, as usual. The meeting’s full agenda may also be found on the county’s website.

Contact Dylan Lysen

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