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Archive for Wednesday, January 22, 1992

ABATEMENTS, RECYCLING TOP CHAMBER POLL

January 22, 1992

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Tax abatements and recycling emerged as the pet issues of local business people who responded to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's annual survey of local and legislative issues.

Of the 503 chamber members who returned the survey, 92 percent said they either supported or strongly supported continuing the city's current policy on tax incentives. Specifically, the survey asked whether chamber members favored providing existing businesses with the same tax incentives to expand that are used to attract new businesses to Lawrence.

Recently, the city has abated 50 percent of a qualifying business' property taxes for 10 years.

On a question probing sentiment for developing "an extensive and all-inclusive citywide recycling plan," 85 percent of the respondents indicated support or strong support.

Chamber President Gary Toebben said the response rate to the questionnaire was about 30 percent of the organization's membership, compared with an average of 10 to 15 percent in previous years.

DURING A daylong retreat today at the Adams Alumni Center, the chamber's board of directors was expected to adopt position statements based on results of both the local and legislative issues surveys.

Toebben said he was surprised with some of the survey's results but not with others.

As expected, Toebben said chamber members remain committed to the concept of economic development. In addition to a strong response to the question on tax incentives, members also issued a mandate for the chamber to continue its effort to recruit new businesses and encourage existing businesses to expand.

Eighty-four percent of respondents said they wanted the Economic Development Marketing Program, a joint effort of the city, Douglas County and the chamber, to continue.

Toebben said he had not known what to expect from the recycling question, which made its first appearance on the chamber survey this year.

"THE RESPONSE to that question would indicate that there's a high degree of recognition among business people of the importance of recycling in the community," he said.

However, more chamber members apparently see recycling as a matter for local initiative. Although 85 percent favored a citywide recycling plan, the legislative issues survey found just 69 percent in favor of a statewide program.

Chamber members also expressed strong sentiment on questions relating to education, particularly where local secondary school facilities are concerned.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they disagreed that current facilities were adequate and that no action should be taken. Eighty-nine percent favored developing a long-range plan to address the Lawrence district's space needs.

"The members of the chamber who responded to that survey recognize that the status quo is not an alternative," Toebben said.

HOWEVER, respondents gave lukewarm responses to several options for constructing new schools or reconfiguring existing ones.

Specifically, just 33 percent expressed any support for building a second high school and converting both high schools to four-year institutions. Thirty-nine percent favored building a second three-year high school and a fourth junior high. Half the respondents supported building an addition to the existing high school and a constructing a fourth junior high, which could be converted to a second high school at some point in the future.

On other education-related questions, 76 percent said businesses should allow employees time off to participate in parental activities at school and 89 percent favored partnerships between businesses and the schools to improve education in Lawrence.

The survey also included several questions related to issues addressed in a downtown development proposal released earlier this month by a chamber task force. The proposal, which calls for expanding the central business district, has been endorsed by Downtown Lawrence Inc.

SIXTY-NINE percent of respondents said they supported retaining the city's commitment to the downtown "as the primary regional commercial center of the city, assuming that the downtown is expanded in size to meet consumer needs."

Toebben said the assumption clause was added to the question in this year's survey. Last year, when the question was posed without raising the prospect for expansion, just 58 percent of respondents wanted the downtown to remain the central business district.

On questions spurred by two other task force recommendations, 65 percent favored creating a new zoning category to allow for downtown expansion, and 68 percent supported widening Ninth Street from Iowa Street to Emery Road.

However, the responses to other task force recommendations were cooler: 50 percent favored adding a fifth lane on Sixth Street from Massachusetts to Maine streets; 51 percent supported construction of decked parking downtown; and 48 percent favored creation of a non-profit downtown redevelopment corporation.

OTHER responses to other survey questions were:

64 percent supported developing a state recreation and conference facility at Clinton Lake.

36 percent favored requiring impact fees to cover the cost of city services on new commercial and residential developments, while 37 percent opposed the concept and 27 percent had no opinion.

53 percent supported providing city-subsidized public bus service to all areas of Lawrence.

83 percent and 87 percent supported continued lobbying for funding for the Eastern Parkway and South Lawrence Trafficway, respectively.

64 percent favored the chamber becoming involved in recruiting full-time physicians to Lawrence.

61 percent supported development of an extensive network of bicycle paths in the city.

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