Douglas County Commission sets hearing date to consider installing stormwater management standards for northern part of the county

photo by: Douglas County Public Works

This map provided by Douglas County shows an outline of the Maple Grove watershed, which is located in the northern part of the county and includes some of the North Lawrence neighborhood. The County Commission will consider installing new stormwater management standards for the area after a public hearing on Nov. 18.

The Douglas County Commission has scheduled a public hearing to consider installing new water drainage standards for a watershed in the northern part of the county, which may affect future development projects in the area.

However, some of the commissioners said they have concerns about the standards and they have not decided to support them just yet.


Douglas County Commission to consider new stormwater management standards for northern county watershed

During their meeting Wednesday, the commissioners set a Nov. 18 hearing date for consideration of the standards that would apply to the Maple Grove watershed, which is in Grant Township and includes parts of the North Lawrence neighborhood.

The proposed standards outline development plan requirements related to water drainage to help alleviate flooding issues in the area, such as requiring new development to have one or more stormwater storage basins to hold and retain water runoff from severe storms. The standards also call for either making sure runoff water is absorbed into the ground within 96 hours or including an outlet for emptying the stormwater storage basins in 72 hours, among other standards.

Although the commissioners set the hearing date, Commission Chair Patrick Kelly noted they have not approved the standards yet.

Prior to setting the date, he and Commissioner Nancy Thellman both expressed concerns that installing the standards may give the impression that the county is willing to allow more development, particularly non-agricultural development, in the area if they meet the water drainage requirements.

But Public Works Director Chad Voigt, who presented the standards to the commissioners, said the standards are meant to be used as an engineering tool, and the commissioners’ concerns may be more related to the county’s views on land use for that area outlined in its joint Northeast Sector Plan with the City of Lawrence.

Additionally, County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said she believed the standards would still be useful when considering agricultural development because not all agricultural development is immune to water drainage issues.

“Our brain just thinks of agricultural uses as farm fields, and that’s not necessarily the case,” Plinsky said. “I don’t want to underestimate how valuable this will be for ag-related businesses. This will be very, very helpful.”

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