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Archive for Thursday, May 27, 1999

PLANNERS REJECT NEW PLANS FOR FORMER HOSPITAL SITE

May 27, 1999

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A 165,000-square-foot center for retail shops and professional offices shouldn't be allowed at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Folks Road, planning commissioners decided.

Having already lost plans for a $20 million hospital, the owners of a 30-acre field in northwest Lawrence are facing denial of their plans for an upscale retail-and-office center.

Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners rejected a rezoning request early this morning that would have allowed sisters Maryan Tebbutt and JoAnne Taylor to develop a 165,000-square-foot center -- a center unlike anything Lawrence has ever seen.

"It would be the Lawrence, today, version of the Country Club Plaza," Tebbutt said.

But commissioners, speaking through their 7-2 vote, would have nothing to do with supporting zoning for a planned commercial district at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Folks Road, a site originally planned for a $20 million for-profit hospital owned and operated by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.

The hospital plans are gone now, after Lawrence city commissioners rejected a conditional-use permit that would have allowed the company to compete directly with the city-owned Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Although planning commissioners had backed the hospital plan in 1995, they couldn't get behind the commercial plan. Many feared construction of a half-mile-long strip of commercial shops along a prime gateway to Lawrence.

Besides, all of the city's long-range plans -- including Horizon 2020 and the Northwest Development Plan -- specifically recommend against allowing commercial development to creep so far away from the intersection of Sixth and Wakarusa Drive, said Andrew Ramirez, chair of the planning commission.

"This invites strip commercial," he said. "It flies in the face of Horizon 2020. It's poor planning. For all those reasons, it's a bad idea."

By rejecting the application for planned-commercial zoning, planning commissioners agreed to support rezoning the property from its current agricultural designation to one that would allow for development of offices.

But Price Banks, attorney for Tebbutt and Taylor, argued that office zoning was the last thing Lawrence needs right now. There's already enough property available in the area for at least 250,000 square feet of professional offices, he said, and that doesn't even include the numerous vacancies in office buildings already constructed.

"There's a glut of inventory," Banks said.

Instead, Banks' clients had sought to develop the property as follows, using planned-commercial zoning:

  • Phase I: 85,000 square feet of retail space, including a bank, on 10 acres by spring 2001.
  • Phases II and III: 40,000 square feet of retail shops and services, plus another 40,000 square feet of professional offices. Those phases would wait until the springs of 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Those plans are up in the air now, however, as the owners decide what to do. The planning commission's decision goes to the Lawrence City Commission for approval in a few weeks.

"We don't know what we'll do next now," Tebbutt said.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.

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