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Archive for Sunday, January 12, 1992

NEIGHBORHOOD GROUP, AT 5, GOING STRONG

January 12, 1992

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On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, Arthur Anderson isn't worried about keeping members interested in the group.

"There always seems to be a problem," said Anderson, chuckling. "There's always an issue."

Anderson was elected chair of LAN in November. Since then, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce has issued recommendations for expanding downtown, and the city has hired a consultant for the new long-range planning guide, Horizon 2020.

Each issue demands the attention of Lawrence residents and neighborhood groups, said Anderson, who is the Hillcrest Neighborhood Assn.'s representative to LAN.

Anderson said his leadership style lends itself to discussion and compromise, but that won't stop him from addressing the issues.

"Tension is good," he said.

LAN WAS born out of the stress and tension that rattled Lawrence in early 1987.

Plans were being made for a controversial downtown mall project and parking garage, said Mary Thomas, past chair of LAN. Several other issues were nagging individual neighborhoods as well.

"Everybody was mad and they didn't know what to do about it," Thomas said.

So she hosted a brainstorming session Jan. 29 of that year in her living room with representatives of several neighborhood associations.

A loose coalition was formed, which formally became LAN in November, 1987. The goal of the group was to pool the strength and resources of the neighborhood groups to improve quality of life in Lawrence.

"I was thinking (at the Jan. 29 meeting) how good it was to have an opportunity to bounce things off other groups before you come up with a solution," said Marci Franciso, a former Lawrence mayor who represented the Oread neighborhood at the meeting. "I think that's how it has continued to work."

LAN CURRENTLY consists of 10 member neighborhood groups: Prairie Meadows, Indian Hills, Schwegler, University Place, Oread, Old West Lawrence, Pinckney, East Lawrence, Brook Creek and Hillcrest.

Members say there are two reasons for LAN's longevity: strong leadership and an abundance of controversial issues.

"LAN is a midway house for neighborhoods with trouble," said Gordon Bower, LAN vice chair. "Enough problems crop up so there's always a need for us."

LAN is gearing up for the public participation process in the creation of Horizon 2020, the city's long-range planning guide.

LAN sponsored a workshop last April to determine what it wants to see out of the plan and create a list of recommendations.

The LAN recommendations include:

A comprehensive traffic plan: economical mass transportation, bicyle and pedestrian routes and lower neighborhood speed limits.

A comprehensive neighborhood plan: stronger regulations on new housing projects, conservative zoning guidelines and historic preservation.

A comprehensive environmental plan: clean water and air policies, comprehensive recycling programs and excess-noise regulations.

ANDERSON said in jest that he owed the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce a debt of gratitude for releasing its recommendations for expanding the downtown business district soon after he took office.

"It provides me with a whole fistful of little issues," he said.

Leaders of some local neighborhood groups say they are leery of the proposals, because downtown is so closely bordered by residential areas.

Anderson said LAN members plan to discuss the proposals at their meeting next month and plot how they will respond to them when chamber representatives take the plan to neighborhood groups for their input.

That the chamber planned to include neighborhood groups in the process shows that LAN has developed a strong political presence in Lawrence over the past five years, Anderson said.

"I think that's a change from the past," he said.

CITY Commissioner Bob Schumm agrees that LAN has become an influential force over the last five years.

"A majority of the city commissioners withheld their support of expanding the downtown commercial district into the neighborhoods," said Schumm.

"To me, that shows a very strong awareness that the city commission knows the net effect that LAN has had in the city of Lawrence.

"They're strong, and that's the bottom line."

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