Douglas County Commission to consider rezoning rural land west of Lawrence to allow for residential development

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

A rural Douglas County landowner hopes to change her agricultural land into a cluster development, which would allow for the land to be subdivided into several residential parcels.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will consider Mary Wakeman’s request to rezone her property from Ag-1, an agricultural district, to a Cluster Development, which allows for residential development.

The nearly 70-acre property at the northwest corner of East 800 Road and North 1500 Road, just west of Lawrence city limits, is located within the city’s urban growth area, which allows for such development. The cluster development zoning would allow for the property to potentially be subdivided into 10 residential lots, according to planning documents provided to the commissioners.

E 800 Rd & N 1500 Rd, Kanwaka, KS 66049

Wakeman said in a memo to planning staff that she wanted to rezone the property for residential purposes because the land’s soil is not suitable for agriculture. But planning staff said the National Commodity Crop Production Index shows about 57% of the land is prime agricultural land.

However, the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission forwarded the request to the County Commission with the recommendation for approval. In the planning documents provided to the county commissioners, the planning commission found that the rezoning request is in line with the Lawrence-Douglas County “West of K-10 Plan,” which allows for residential land use in that area.

Planning staff also found that rezoning the property into a cluster development would protect the environmentally sensitive lands in the area, which include wetland, a stream corridor and native prairie. It would remove the prime agricultural land from use, but staff found the preservation of sensitive lands more desirable.

“Given the location of this property in the urban growth area and the amount of environmentally sensitive lands present, the preservation of the wetland/stream corridor, stand of mature trees, and native prairies is seen as more important than the preservation of prime farmland,” staff wrote in the planning documents.

Wakeman proposes turning the land into 10 residential lots, each consisting of about three acres, with 40% of the land remaining undeveloped and consisting of the sensitive lands.

In other business, county commissioners will consider discontinuing a tax distribution period that occurs in December.

Douglas County collects property taxes for many entities, including local municipalities and school districts. Some of those entities receive a 10% tax distribution in December. But, unlike other distribution periods, it is not required by state law.

In a memo to commissioners, acting County Treasurer Adam Rains said the tax distribution in December is detrimental to his office because it occurs on the same day that the first half of county property taxes are collected, which Rains called the busiest day of the year. He also noted the process confuses auditors and leaves the county vulnerable to errors.

The commissioners will consider revoking a resolution that created the December tax distribution. If revoked, the removal of the tax distribution date would be effective in 2021.

The commissioners will also receive a report from Tara Laughlin of accounting firm Allen, Gibbs and Houlik about the county’s annual audit. Laughlin will provide a report about the company’s audit of the county’s 2019 fiscal year.

The County Commission will meet Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for a 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 934-9713-6413.

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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