Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2007

Open house allows county residents to voice opinions

August 23, 2007, 12:00 a.m.

Updated: August 23, 2007, 11:14 a.m.

In a growth and development open house, residents from across Leavenworth County gathered Monday night to give input about their ideas for the future of the county.

The Comprehensive Plan Committee, a group of 15 volunteers organized to study and update the county's land use plan, played host to the event to give citizens the opportunity to participate in mapping out the future of their homes.

Chris Dunn, the county's planning and zoning director, said that communication between the planning committee and the county's residents was key to making sure growth in the county continued to be strong and was done in an appropriate manner.

Through surveys and talking with committee members, Dunn said residents could shape the way the county would look 10 to 20 years from now and in turn affect the taxes they would pay. He said if the job is done right, the comprehensive plan could save people money in the long run.

To help the committee, Ochsner, Hare & Hare, a planning, landscape and architectural firm from Kansas City, Mo., was brought in as consultants. Ralph Ochsner spoke at Monday's event and said he considered work on the land use plan to be like problem solving.

To be able for the firm to do its job though, Ochsner said, they would need to merge their technical knowledge with the personal knowledge of the residents who have lived in the county. He said the dialogue that comes from the two groups would create a great place to live in the future.

In meetings over the last few months, the planning committee outlined six areas that needed to be addressed in the county. A task force was then formed for each area, which included economic development, growth management, housing and neighborhoods, land use, parks and recreation and transportation and infrastructure.

After brief introductions and an explanation on the background of the committee, the audience of the open house was asked to break into groups according to the task force that interested them most.

At each round table, task force and planning committee members took questions from county residents as well as ideas for improvement.

At the housing and neighborhoods table, residents' discussions centered on the need for more building inspections and building codes within the county. Discussions at the growth management and land use tables focused on restrictions for incoming developers and the buffer areas between commercial and housing units.

In all, Dunn said he was happy with the number of people who attended. He said the county was full of good people, and with their help, a great community to live in is definitely in their future.

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