Douglas County Commission begins process to allow rural landowner to subdivide his land

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Douglas County Commission

The Douglas County Commission and county staff discuss a rural landowner's appeal to a denied application to subdivide land during its meeting on Wednesday, May 6, 2020.

A rural landowner whose application to subdivide his property for residential development was denied by Douglas County staff received some help from the County Commission on Wednesday.

But before Anthony Fanello, the applicant, will be able to make his proposed plan a reality, the county will need to go through additional steps to allow it.

During its meeting Wednesday, the commission voted to defer taking action on Fanello’s appeal of the denial of his application. Fanello had applied to subdivide 28 acres at the corner of North 1800 Road and East 1200 Road, but county staff denied his application because the property is zoned for office or research use, not for residential development. The land is directly north of Lawrence and just west of an industrial district that includes Berry Global and the Kmart distribution center.

The commissioners chose to defer taking action because they wanted to allow Fanello to subdivide the land, but they did not want to uphold the appeal, because doing so would mean the commissioners were saying staff was wrong in denying the application based on the county’s land-use regulations, which it had followed correctly.

Instead, the commission asked staff to write an amendment for the land-use regulations that applies specifically to Fanello’s property and will eventually allow him to subdivide the land. Commissioner Michelle Derusseau said that method was appropriate because she believed the regulations calling for office and research uses in that area might be outdated.

“At least the residential (plan) fits the character of that area much better than industrial, office and storage space,” she said.

The appeal will be deferred until the amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan goes through the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Commission for consideration and comes back to the County Commission for final approval.

Fanello has addressed the commissioners before about the land. In July 2019, the commissioners denied issuing a conditional use permit to Fanello to build a boat storage and ministorage facility at the same location. Derusseau noted at the time that the area was set for future zoning of heavy industrial use and office and research use.

Fanello, who appeared to be frustrated by the confusing nature of the situation on Wednesday, said he had worked with the county staff to find a suitable use for the land and he believed the plan to subdivide the land worked within the county’s regulations.

“I feel this is a happy medium,” he said.

Along with their decision to begin amending the regulations around Fanello’s property specifically, the commissioners directed county staff to prepare for a future work session on updating the regulations in that area more generally to better reflect the way the land is used.

In other business, the commissioners approved issuing a conditional use permit to Fire District No. 3 to build a new fire station. The fire district serves Willow Springs Township, which is in the south-central part of the county. Through the permit, the fire district will be able to build a new 9,600-square-foot station on 5 acres of land directly across East 1100 Road.

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