The core of the community is at the center of discussion for Horizon 2020.
The public hearing lasted only 12 minutes, but that was enough to convince at least two Lawrence city commissioners that downtown Lawrence needs more protection in the city's newest land-use plan.
After the commission's first public hearing for Horizon 2020 -- the proposed guide for development in Lawrence and Douglas County for the next 25 years -- Commissioners Jo Andersen and Allen Levine said they were ready to change the document to boost downtown's standing as a commercial and retail center. Three community members spoke during the public hearing.
The turning point: Ken Campbell's assertion that the current plan, as recommended by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, could allow six new downtown-sized developments all over town.
"We can't support that much," said Andersen, in an interview after Tuesday's meeting. "It would be downtown that would suffer."
Levine said downtown's success had been preserved by the city's current land-use plan, which prevented a "cornfield mall" from being built along U.S. Highway 59 in the 1980s.
"Downtown was saved by that very clear and specific language," Levine said.
Both Levine and Andersen said they wanted the plan to include specific findings that downtown should remain the area's "commercial and retail" community center.
Sheila Stogsdill, the city's assistant director of planning, said the recommended plan focused on the current character of downtown, which has grown from a commercial center into a more "mixed use" area -- with important social, cultural, governmental and community uses.
"It's more than a shopping district," she said.
Instead, she said, the plan offers flexibility to allow new shopping centers to serve a growing city.
"We need to be able to provide convenient shopping opportunities throughout the community," Stogsdill said.
The plan has been in the works for five years and still awaits a second public hearing Aug. 13. Mayor John Nalbandian hopes for approval by November.
Campbell, owner of Campbell's Clothing and a representative for Downtown Lawrence Inc., said the recommended plan should strengthen downtown, not weaken it.
"It should remain the retail core, first and foremost," he said.