Part of the South Lawrence Trafficway's future came into view Monday at a study session with the Lawrence City Commission and the Douglas County Commission at city hall.
That future includes a preliminary look at the trafficway's right of way needs, tentative plans for hiking and bike paths around the 14.1-mile route and discussion on the project's potential setback requirements.
The setback issue also raised a future that may include litigation, a Lawrence man said at the end of the meeting. W.W. "Doc" Wempe, whose property will be usurped by the trafficway's interchange with U.S. Highway 59, told the two commissions he would sue them for payment if they want a setback greater than the existing 50-foot standard. The city and county have been discussing using 150-foot setbacks on both sides of the trafficway for greenspace.
"I guarantee you, you're going to run into a lawsuit, so you just as well pay for it, 'cause we're not giving more than 50 feet," Wempe said. "We pay taxes, can't use it (land in the setback), have to maintain it. If you want it, and it's good for the community, by God, buy it."
WEMPE belongs to a group of property owners along the trafficway route who hired a Topeka attorney to help them negotiate setback issues with the city and county. The city and county have not committed to the purchase of any land that is affected by their setback requirements.
The commissions asked the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office to study the setback requirements and sizes in the next 30 days. A follow-up meeting was set at 4 p.m. March 16 to discuss the findings.
Planning director Price Banks said his staff would study a potential overlay zoning district "which would have different kinds of setback provisions from the existing zoning in the city and the county." He added he would look at the project's right of way "to see what makes sense for an overlay district to accomplish."
Trafficway project manager John Pasley opened the meeting by giving the commissioners and 10 members of the public their first glimpse of the possible right of way requirements for the trafficway. He stressed that the right of way calculations were "very preliminary" as he walked the gathering through the 14 maps posted on the city commission meeting room's walls.
THE RIGHT of way figures jotted on the maps showed many amounts in the 300-foot to 450-foot range. Pasley said the right of way needs depended on terrain and the need for drainage. The minimum requirement for right of way is 250 feet.
County Commission Chairman Mark Buhler said the meeting helped the two bodies to "clarify and crystallize the intent of the interlocal agreement and to get us moving down the road."
The city and county signed an interlocal agreement that spells out the rudiments of the trafficway's design.
Buhler added that the planning office's work on the overlay zoning will clarify "what can and can't be done" and "help the elected officials understand the costs associated" with the setbacks.