What’s on your horizon?
A discussion of long-range plans for Douglas County sparked numerous interesting comments at Monday's Baldwin City Council meeting when members of the rural planning committee of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission reported on Horizon 2020.
The long-range plan for Douglas County growth has not been adopted yet and the group is still seeking input. However, two of the suggestions being touted is changing how rural water meter control is currently done and changing the size allowed for sale of land in the country from the current 5 acre exemption to 20 acres.
"We've taken on a lot of issues," said Myles Schachter, a member of the rural planning committee about the policy document the group is working on to be included in Horizon 2020. "It affects you significantly. We think by maybe late January, early February, it will be ready to give to the county commission."
The plan involves "urban growth areas" and "build through acreages" that would control subdivisions in the country that are likely to be annexed into cities.
"Let's identify the areas around Baldwin and determine those as growth areas," Schachter said. "The area from there would then be low density -- one home per 20 acres.
"Inside the urban growth areas, what is the area of influence around your area in the next 20 years," he said. "Once we define those areas, sub-divisions will be allowed, but will be controlled to allow easy annexation in the future. This is called build through acreages."
He said the county would approve the zoning of the subdivisions, but want the cities to be involved for the future annexation.
"Those two are most important to you -- zoning control and the build through thing," said Schachter. "We need your input on those."
There were several in the audience that weren't buying into what was being said, most notably that the city of Lawrence wasn't involved.
"It just seems to me that this would be a major change in the city's stance," said Mayor Ken Hayes.
Rural Baldwin resident Ted Madl took special exception to the change from the 5-acre exemption to 20 acres.
"I'm not against the growth area," Madl said. "But, I'll guarantee you the farmers around Baldwin will scream bloody murder. The city of Lawrence is controlling everything. We need to be split off. We don't need Lawrence telling us what to do in southern Douglas County."
Larry Franq, a member of Baldwin's planning commission, wondered about the committee's plan to force Lawrence into relaxing its grip on water meter sales by tying the subdivision revisions in. Schachter had said that Lawrence wanted the subdivision controls to allow easier annexation and the group would require the full allotment of water from Lawrence without the restrictions on meter sales in order for that to happen.
"Black mail and extortion are good words for it with the water," Franq said, adding that he wondered who would be in charge of building and code inspections for the sub-divisions that would eventually be annexed into the city.
"This draft hasn't been approved by anyone," said Schachter, who had pointed out that he's a rural Douglas County resident. "This is not about Lawrence. We think you should have control on what goes on around Baldwin. We think Baldwin has the right."
He said there were additional meetings to discuss the plan, including one with farmers on Jan. 5. It's all about getting input for what everyone wants and that's why he was presenting the information to the council, he said.
"I, myself, personally, don't think the city should go out and annex everything around us," said council member Ted Brecheisen Jr. "Would you like our planning commission to come up with our recommendations on this?"
"Yes, that would be great," said Schachter. "There isn't a deadline on this. This is our draft with a capital D. Your ideas are real valuable to us."