Time for comprehensive land use planning is before you need the plan

Neighboring Shawnee County officials recently approved a new land use plan for the county.

That’s something that Jackson County officials should be considering, too.

The Shawnee County Commission voted 2-1 recently to approve that county’s first-ever comprehensive land use plan.

Commissioners Kevin Cook and Shelly Buhler voted in favor of the nearly 200-page plan, which will help guide decision-making about the physical development of the county’s unincorporated areas for the next 20 years or so while serving as a blueprint for future growth and the preservation of agricultural land.

Commissioner Cook described the plan as being a “compromise” between various interests. Commissioner Bob Archer disagreed, saying the plan had little or no public support and he didn’t trust much of the data it contained.

Archer added that he was concerned about the process the vote put in place for amending the plan because planning director Barry Beagle, the Shawnee County Planning Commission and the county commission are, in his view,  “on different tracks” in terms of what they think is important for the county from a planning perspective.

The plan seeks to guide orderly growth, balance environmental values and steer future economic and residential deveopments reasonable to areas of the county where utilities can most easily, and inexpensively, be extended.

Assistant county counselor Joni Thadani told commissioners that approval of the new land use plan would not have any immediate fiscal impact, but the county may have to spend money in the future to put some of its components in place.

Commissioners made various amendments to the plan earlier on Sept. 10. Some came in response to concerns it would discourage residential development in some rural areas.

We reported on a similar comprehensive land use planning process for Miami County, located south of Kansas City, Kan.’s Johnson County, in 1996-97 when we owned two newspapers in that county, The Louisburg Herald and The Osawatomie Graphic.

The problem that was occurring in Miami County at that time was that the “urban sprawl’’- people seeking to move out of the city limits to rural areas - had then extended into Miami County. 

Very expensive homes were being built in the Miami County countrysides - good news for the county - but as soon as the very expensive homes were built the owners expected the county to build new, paved roads to take the place of the gravel ones.

As the urban sprawl continued, the utility service providers in Miami County were increasingly unable to meet new demands.

Miami County wanted the growth but needed it to occur in a more orderly fashion, in selected areas where utilities could easily be extended so as not to out-stretch county-provided services such as fire and police protection, too.

The lesson, I think, from what Shawnee County is doing now and from what Miami County was doing more than 20 years ago, is that counties (and cities) must  plan for future residential and industrial growth.

Where should the next residential subdivisions be located in the counties and cities, for example?

Where should the next industrial parks be located in the counties and cities?

When and where should Holton, for example, annex the next properties into the city limits?

This is what comprehensive land use planning is all about. In my view, Jackson County could use an up-to-date plan.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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