Planning decision stirs rural concern
One county commissioner wants to limit urban influence on panel
Douglas County commissioners are preparing to appoint two people to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, and one of the three elected officials is drawing a line in the sand.
County Commissioner Jim Flory, a Republican, says he will not vote to support any potential appointee who lives inside the city limits of Lawrence. The planning commissioners whose terms are expiring — Jeff Chaney and Richard Hird — are the only ones on the 10-member commission who live outside of town.
Hird, a board member of Rural Water District No. 2, is willing to be reappointed. Chaney is not.
“It’s critical we consider rural residents, and see that they have a seat at the table,” Flory said last week. “They deserve a seat at the table.”
County Commission Chairwoman Nancy Thellman and fellow Commissioner Mike Gaughan, both Democrats, have declined to endorse Flory’s stance. Appointees need only be residents of the county, and that includes each and every address in Lawrence.
Individually, Thellman and Gaughan say they are busy reviewing résumés and conducting interviews to determine who would best serve the county and its residents, regardless of a potential appointee’s home address.
“We’re taking our time,” Thellman said last week.
The Lawrence City Commission appoints five members to the planning commission, and the County Commission appoints the other five. The 10 planning commissioners each serve three-year terms, and those of Chaney and Hird expire May 31.
County commissioners plan to discuss potential appointments at their next meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts streets.
Planning commissioners prepare, adopt and maintain long-range plans for land use, transportation and other aspects of development within the city of Lawrence and unincorporated areas of the county. They also review zoning applications, development plans and other items considered critical to construction, redevelopment or preservation projects.