Archive for Monday, April 24, 1995

ZONING RIFT MAY DELAY SCHOOL

April 24, 1995

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The local planning commission will decide whether developments stemming from the planned second high school are in the best interest of taxpayers.

The second Lawrence high school could become mired in a zoning battle that a city staff report says could delay its opening by a semester or a year.

Planners have few concerns about the high school site itself, located north of Sixth Street and west of Wakarusa Drive. However, the school district has joined the land owners in requesting zoning changes for three surrounding lots. That's where planners see danger.

Plans call for creation of a four-lot subdivision consisting of a 142-lot residential area, an office area, a commercial area and the school area.

Lawrence schools Supt. Al Azinger said the district worked with the city planning staff during land negotiations to avoid a delay in opening the school, scheduled for fall 1997.

Despite the cooperative effort, a planning report says a holdup may be in the offing. It states, "At worst, the time for thorough study may cause a delay in the opening of the high school facility by a semester or a year."

"That was kind of a surprise," Azinger said.

City planner Fred Sherman wrote the report. He based its conclusions on policies adopted by the city and county, policies that do not recognize the land in question as an area intended for urban development.

"The city of Lawrence has expanded so much that we are now going into an area that Plan '95 has designated as a conservation area and the Douglas County Guide Plan has designated as rural," he said.

Further study is necessary to know whether the proposed roads around the high school are enough to handle adjacent residential and commercial developments, Sherman said. If the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission anticipates future problems, it could reject the plat, setting back the project.

The planning commission will consider the requests at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

The annexation request is for a total of 161 acres.

The second high school would sit on 61 acres about 800 feet north of Sixth Street. The district purchased the land for $1.3 million. The contract states that the district would cooperate in getting approval for annexation, zoning and plats for three surrounding lots.

Azinger said the district was careful to word the contract to avoid delays that the district couldn't control. The contract states that the deal does not require city approval of the surrounding zoning requests.

The city staff report recommends approval of the school zoning.

The report recommends deferring rezoning for the other 100 acres until a development plan is adopted showing sewers, water lines and streets and how increased traffic would affect the surrounding area. Such a plan would be similar to the Southern Development Plan adopted by the city in 1993 for the South Iowa Street area.

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