The possibility of bringing a Target store to south Lawrence is putting to the test the flexibility of the city's Plan '95 comprehensive guide.
Plan '95 as well as the Horizon 2020 plan that is now being formulated have been touted repeatedly as "planning" documents not intended as ironclad rules for future planning in the city. A proposal now before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will go a long way in determining if that is true.
Property owners in Neider Acres, a residential subdivision near South Iowa Street, have developed a plan to sell their homes rather than face expensive improvements to sewer and water systems that would be needed if the property is annexed into the city. The property was offered for sale for commercial development and Target Department stores showed an interest in constructing a new store at the site.
The project, however, requires a zoning change, which hit a snag when it was pointed out that the new zoning didn't conform to the land uses outlined in Plan '95. When that plan was formulated, Neider Acres was designated as a residential area. Now developers and the residents wanted to change that.
A group of about 30 downtown business people meeting Monday aptly pointed out that the proper way to proceed with such a project is to plan, then zone. Planning should come first, but it shouldn't necessarily be the last word.
Planning is good. It helps the city develop in a thoughtful manner. But since no one can see very far into the future, it is also necessary for plans to change with the times. Planners putting together Plan '95 probably couldn't have predicted how fast South Iowa Street would develop in recent years. Neither could they have predicted the wishes of Nieder Acres residents to disban their neighborhoods. A planning action that may have been intended to protect the residential area from encroachment is now standing in the way of the wishes of the residents themselves.
The addition of Target would be very much in keeping with the area along South Iowa. Many similar stores are located there, and a new Target store would be a welcome addition to the Lawrence retail market. Maybe when Plan '95 was written that wouldn't have been the case, but it is the case now.
Nieder Acres residents are willing to recognize the need for a change in their area; planning officials should be willing to do the same.