A Lawrence businessman at the forefront of the dispute over the proposed annexation and rezoning of Nieder Acres insists that Plan '95 must be amended before the planning commission acts on the request.
Myles Schachter, owner of Connecting Point Computer Center and a former city planner, said a set of six amendments he's proposed for Plan '95, the city's land-use guide, would update the 20-year-old document to avoid setting a precedent that would weaken the commitment to maintain downtown as the city's central business district.
Amending Plan 95 also would allow Target Stores Inc. to proceed with plans to build a 116,000-square-foot store on a 10-acre site within Nieder Acres, now a residential subdivision substantially outside the city limits.
``The main contention is that the comprehensive plan seems to be contrary to what's being proposed here,'' Schachter said, emphasizing that he's not trying to prevent Target from building its store. ``Let's change the plan to make sure it stays valid and justifies what's being proposed.''
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission is scheduled to review Schachter's proposed amendments, as well as nine others submitted by Steve Sublett, a Nieder Acres property owner, when it meets Aug. 25.
Most residents of Nieder Acres, which is southwest of 31st and Iowa, petitioned for the planning action. They claim that commercial encroachment and failing infrastructure have made the subdivision unviable as a residential neighborhood.
The primary difference between the two sets of proposed amendments is that Schachter would like to see about 18 acres on the east side of the 28.5-acre subdivision designated for intense commercial development, with the balance reserved for office and multifamily residential development.
Sublett, whose property is not in the 18 acres, is asking that the entire subdivision be rezoned for heavy commercial uses.
Schachter said the proposed division of the subdivision grew out of a compromise that members of interested citizen groups reached last month with Target's attorney, Wint Winter Jr.
However, Schachter said limiting the amount of land rezoned commercial at this time would prevent commercial development from consuming the 85 acres south from Nieder Acres to the planned South Lawrence Trafficway.
The office and multifamily development he envisions surrounding the commercial area would provide the same kind of buffer that Mesa Way offers neighborhoods near West Sixth Street, he said. A mobile home park currently located south of Nieder Acres already provides a multifamily use to the south.
Schachter, who says he's done an ordinance-by-ordinance review of zoning changes during the past 20 years, says his intent is not to limit commercial development per se. Rather, he says the city already has about 850 acres zoned for commercial uses, and research done for Horizon 2020, the new guide plan now being written, holds that 260 commercial acres are vacant.
``If we zone too much and get too far ahead of ourselves, we could create this sprawling effect,'' he said.
Winter said he takes issue with that argument, which is similar to one laid out by the city planning staff in recommending against approval of the Nieder Acres request.
``You can't vote against this application because of some application that may come in the future,'' he said.
Other changes Schachter has suggested include:
-- Designating the intersection of 31st and Iowa as a community shopping center to allow 18 acres of commercial development.
-- Redefining population and acreage guidelines that were included in Plan '95 to balance the amount of commercially zoned land with community needs. ``If you go by the plan, we shouldn't approve this,'' he said of the rezoning proposal. ``But since we're not no-growth, we should amend the plan to justify this.''