Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 1999

FLEXIBLE ZONING

September 7, 1999

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To the editor:

The city commision's approval of the preliminary development plan for the Aberdeen South apartments as well as the zoning of the Antioch Baptist Church property in Iowa Street are two recent examples of problems associated with zoning ordinances that allow for development of properties in unpredictable ways.

Perhaps the worst feature of zoning flexibility in Lawrence is that although a parcel may be zoned for one use category, it can be developed, according to the ordinance, for many so-called "lesser uses." In the case of the Aberdeen South Project, a use such as commercial specifically designed for neighborhood services might have been a welcome use. Knowledge that this tract could also be developed for the "lesser use" of high-density multi-family housing might have prevented some of those who purchased homes in this neighborhood from investing and therefore much of the controversy surrouding the project might have been avoided.

In the case of the Antioch Baptist Church property, the owners have stated an intention to develop a portion of the land for office use now. Because the entire parcel has been rezoned, without any firm idea of what the future development may look like, there will be tremendous flexibility in how the balance of the property could be developed at a later time. This is great for the Antioch property owners, but creates a lot of uncertainty for the surrounding neighborhood and the community at large. The League of Women Voters suggests that it would have been better to request that both the rezoning and replatting applications be submitted concurrently.

In both of these cases an ordinance which requires a development plan as part of the zoning application would have eliminated the uncertainty of the uses. Duncan Associates, the consultants charged with updating the current development regulations, has suggested a need for planning ordinances that are more predictable. It is League's hope that any zoning ordinances proposed by the consultants and adopted by the city will be more narrowly defined and thus more predictable.

Carrie F. Moore, president,

League of Women Voters -- Douglas County.

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