Replacing water lines on Riverridge Road will make residents of the Miller and Wells Acres area prime candidates for annexation.
A joint project between Lawrence and Douglas County to widen Riverridge Road could lead to the eventual annexation of a developed neighborhood east of North Iowa Street.
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday directed city staff to draft a report about what it would take to annex an area known as the Miller and Wells Acres into the city.
That's a pocket of development north of Riverridge Road, along California, Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota streets.
Residents there now receive water from Rural Water District No. 1, which says there are 70 customers in the area.
David Corliss, the city's legal services director, said he believes most of the land is already platted, and it is nearly surrounded on all sides by the city limits.
Under state law, he said, that means the city could unilaterally annex the property without seeking the consent of Douglas County.
But before any annexation plans are drafted, Corliss said, officials first need to find out how much of the property is developed and platted, how much it would cost to extend city services to the area, and what the impact would be on property owners there.
He also said the city would need to schedule neighborhood meetings with residents to discuss the idea and get their reactions.
"We're not saying we want to annex, only that we want to look at whether we want to annex," Corliss said.
Corliss said the idea first came up in talks with Rural Water District No. 1 about the utility lines along Riverridge Road.
The city owns a water line on the south side of the road, and RWD No. 1 has two lines on the north side.
All three lines need to be moved for the street-widening project. But instead of replacing them all, Corliss said it would make better sense in the long run to put in only a single city pipe on the north side of the road for water service.
Last month, the water district's board of directors approved the framework of an agreement whereby the district would abandon its water lines on Riverridge Road and eventually sell to the city all its other lines and meters leading to the properties, at a cost of $3,570 per meter.
In exchange, the water district would continue to serve those customers and maintain water lines in the area until the city is ready to annex.
At Tuesday's city commission meeting, Corliss asked for guidance on how to proceed with the water line issue, as well as the possibility of annexing the Miller and Wells Acres area.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to negotiate a formal agreement for acquiring the water district's facilities in the area, and to have staff prepare a report outlining issues involved in annexing the property.
Corliss said annexation would involve extending all city services to the area, including sewers and police and fire protection.
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