A Lawrence environmental firm now plans to lease rather than purchase Kaw Valley School because the Lawrence school district intends to request conditional use of the building instead of seeking rezoning for the area.
The Lawrence school board in November approved selling the school building and surrounding land to Environmental Management Resources for $180,000. The board closed Kaw Valley School last year and moved students to India School to save about $70,000 in annual general fund expenses.
The school is located about 3 miles east of Lawrence off Douglas County Road 442, also known as old Kansas 10 Highway.
Craig Fiegel, the district's director for business and facilities, said in mid-December that the only obstacle to closing the sale of the school was getting the property rezoned. However, the district ended up withdrawing its request to change the zoning from agricultural to light commercial.
FIEGEL said he had received indications that county and planning officials probably would not approve a rezoning for the area.
"I think their concern was that rezoning opened the building up to any kind of business if EMR ever decided to sell," Fiegel said.
To provide the district an option to rezoning, the Douglas County Commission on Dec. 23 discussed a possible text amendment to county zoning regulations to add office and research facility uses to those uses permitted under a conditional use permit. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission approved the amendment Wednesday, and now the amendment will go before the county commission.
Douglas County Commission Chairman Mike Amyx said Thursday he supports the amendment.
"Here's a situation where you can use a conditional use permit, and it works just as well as a zoning change," Amyx said.
However, EMR now plans to lease the building rather than purchase it.
CRAIG Templeton, communications director for EMR, explained that by not purchasing the school, "The building doesn't have to become collateral security against anything. And with conditional use, it's of little collateral security.
"Lenders probably aren't too excited about lending money on a building that has a single-use option, and this kind of takes the lender out of the picture."
Templeton said he thinks a conditional use permit will provide "a win-win situation for the (school's) neighbors, the school district and us."
The county commission is scheduled to consider the text amendment at its Feb. 12 meeting. If approved, the planning commission could consider a school district request for a conditional use permit at its Feb. 26 meeting.
EMR is involved in the management of industrial waste and on-site cleanups for chemical spills. Templeton said the firm plans to use the school building as headquarters office space.