The northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive is fine for commercial development -- as long as the new construction fits in with the city's long-range plans, Lawrence city commissioners decided Tuesday night.
A Lawrence-based media company can go ahead and have 52 acres of commercial zoning at the corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, provided it follows the rules when it comes time to put a plan on paper.
Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners agreed to rezone 52 acres of agricultural property at the intersection's northwest corner for planned-commercial uses, as requested by The World Co.
The company, which owns the Journal-World, wants to use part of the land for a new 50,000-square-foot office building. The expandable headquarters would provide space for various operations of the Journal-World, Sunflower Cablevision, Journal-World Web Works and Sunflower Datavision, as well as include a commercial community area for telecommunications and teleconferencing.
Possibilities for the rest of the property include a bank, restaurant, hotel, apartments, grocery store, day care center and public buildings such as a branch library or post office.
Now all company officials need to do is come up with a workable preliminary development plan for the entire project -- something that must be approved within two years for the zoning to become effective.
Ralph Gage, general manager for The World Co., hopes to have the headquarters building open in 18 months.
``They've ex-pressed trust and confidence in us, and we have the same trust and confidence in the city commission and the planning commission,'' Gage said following the commission's 3-1 vote. ``We'll be back with a plan that I think they'll like.''
Commissioner Bonnie Augustine did not attend the meeting.
Commissioner John Nalbandian, however, didn't like the zoning decision in the first place. In his book, the mere concept of setting aside 52 acres for commercial use at the corner -- at an intersection already approved for commercial use on its other three corners -- contradicts three of the city's backbone planning documents.
Horizon 2020, the city's comprehensive land-use guide, recommended only 10 to 30 acres of commercial zoning at the entire intersection through the year 2020.
``I think that this violates the letter of the plan as well as the spirit of it,'' said Nalbandian, who cast the lone dissenting vote.
Mayor Marty Kennedy noted that the zoning would not become effective, however, until a development plan won approval. And for that to happen, he said, the city commission would need to approve the plan, which in turn would have to comply with the city's plans.
``It gives us the final say,'' Kennedy said.
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.