No matter how the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission tried to skirt specifics, there wasn't much disguising the real issue behind Monday's planning commission study session.
In a not-so-subtle discussion of possible changes to the city's current comprehensive plan, commissioners dodged discussions about a pending proposal to annex and rezone 30 acres of land in the Nieder Acres subdivision, the proposed site for a new Target store.
In the end, commissioners decided to wait at least until Wednesday's monthly meeting for a decision about whether to formally reconsider the commercial aspects of Plan '95, the current land-use guide plan.
"I'd like to sleep on it a few days," Commissioner Max Entrikin said.
Planning commissioners took home interpretations of the 16-year-old plan from 24 Lawrence residents, including downtown merchants, lawyers, neighborhood officials and former city and planning commissioners. All totaled, about 70 people attended the session.
All were asked to refrain even from mentioning the Target proposal, which calls for building a 116,000-square-foot store on a portion of the subdivision, west of Iowa and between 31st and 33rd streets.
The proposal currently is being studied by the planning staff, and likely will be discussed at next month's meeting.
"We're talking about an issue that we're not talking about," said Dennis Snodgrass, a newly seated planning commissioner.
Plan '95, adopted in 1977, serves as a guide for planners to decide where commercial development should occur in Lawrence. A map in the plan says commercial development should be limited to an area east of Iowa, but several speakers at the meeting said the text and principles allowed for growth on the west side.
"The plan was never intended to be used as a delay or harassment tactic," said Loris Brubeck Jr., who lives in the subdivision, at 1229 E. 1290 Rd.
Price Banks, planning director, said hearings about Plan '95 could delay the Target proposal anywhere from three months to a year.
Carolynn Crawford, 2611 Orchard Ln., said the Target proposal spawned more disturbing rumors in Lawrence than with any project in 20 years: "Things like, 'done deal, lots of money, lots of pressure being brought forth.'"
She said she didn't want to see the "pretty nice town" of Lawrence sold out to Target, through Nieder Acres.
"Please, please don't give us away," Crawford said. "Please plan first, zone second. Do not let money be the overriding thing in this community. We're worth more than that."
Marsha Goff, 3200 Nieder Rd., said most Nieder Acres residents only wanted to sell their land because of surrounding commercial areas and failing utilities.
"In my hypothetical neighborhood, we're not talking about money," Goff said. "We're talking about people, and we're talking about people who are desperate to get out."
Barry Shalinsky, 645 Conn., said Target should wait until completion of the Horizon 2020 process -- the evolving land-use plan to replace Plan '95 -- before making any changes.
"This community has existed for 140 years without some of the major, new developments ... and I'm sure that we can last another six months without them in place, and then discuss them appropriately," Shalinsky said.
Wint Winter Jr., Target's attorney in the pending rezoning request, said that while the plan didn't need to be changed, Target wouldn't object -- "so long as, obviously, it didn't make it any more difficult to build a Target department store."
Planing commissioners will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the city commission meeting room at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.