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Archive for Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Opposition develops to joint Baldwin park

November 7, 2000

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— A plan by city officials to build a combined business park and recreation area southwest of town doesn't sit well with some Baldwin residents.

They're organizing to stop it.

Ken Hayes, owner of Cornerstone Construction of Lawrence, 2004 E. 22nd Terrace, is spearheading the effort.

"I'm not at all opposed to building a business park or opposed to building a recreation park, but I am opposed to putting the two facilities side by side," he said.

City officials here have discussed building a business park and recreation area with ballfields on 160 acres along Lawrence Street and N. 200 Road. In August, the city council paid $25,000 for a one-year option to buy the land from Baldwin resident Jim Faulkner. If the council buys the land, the sum would be applied to the $590,000 purchase price.

More land is needed for both uses.

Two years ago, Heritage Tractor took the last space available in the city's current industrial park off U.S. Highway 56 east of town.

On the recreation side, the city and the Baldwin Recreation Commission have a five-year agreement with the school district to continue using its ballfields. But the school district plans to build an auditorium and/or parking lots on the fields in a few years.

Looking for land

This summer Baker University offered the city 16.3 acres in an area called North Park for a community center with an indoor pool. The university also would have leased another 14 acres to the city for ballfields at $1 a year for 25 years.

Baldwin City Administrator Larry Paine said the city council turned down Baker's offer because it didn't like some of the details.

The city council also looked at land west of Baldwin along U.S. Highway 56, but Paine said the land would have cost about $1,500 more an acre than the 160 acres the city is considering.

Meanwhile, Hayes and other critics of the plan say the recreation area should be within or closer to the city. The ideal location for the business park should be along the highway.

"Having a business park one mile south of town in the country makes no sense," he said.

Debi Moore, senior vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said she thinks smaller businesses would be interested in the location, which has a 15-acre pond in the middle.

"From what I know, this particular property would lend itself to back offices and warehouses and they would be able to co-exist with the recreation area that they're talking about," she said. "If they're going to attract larger manufacturing and trucking companies, then no, this would not work."

Baldwin resident Mike Grosdidier, also a Baldwin planning commissioner, said he doesn't support the location either and is worried about heavy truck traffic going through residential areas. In addition, he said he's not so sure about the combined-use concept.

"Having big trucks and kids in the same vicinity, I'm not sure if that's a good mix," he said.

Paine said he doubted children would run into the traffic because trucks would be traveling on Lawrence Street, which runs north and south along the west side of the property. He said people would access the recreation area along Orange Street.

Next year, Paine said, the city will hire an architect or engineer for a design study of the property. He said that will determine if the city can use the land for both uses. About 15 firms have expressed interest in the project so far, he said.

"Our city council has not said we're married to this piece of property yet," Paine said. "We're all keeping an open mind about whether this is the right thing to do right now."

Grosdidier said he hopes city officials will look at other land sites before making their final decision.

Evaluating expenses

Because of the project's cost, Hayes said, the public should be given a say. He said he is talking with attorneys about developing a legal petition so the public could push the issue to a vote. He said he hopes to start circulating petitions within the next few weeks.

According to state statute, third-class cities such as Baldwin are not required to put such spending issues to a public vote.

Meanwhile, the city still hasn't determined how much the entire project would cost, Paine said. He said next year's study will provide more answers about cost.

More than $1 million would be spent to purchase the land and build a new water tower and more water lines, which would serve the business park, recreation area and residents who live in the west part of the city. The water tower would be paid for through Baldwin's capital improvement plan.

The city also must upgrade its power system and more than a mile of roads near the proposed site.

Paine said the city may apply for a grant through the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing. The grant could help finance the city's economic development and infrastructure projects.

Hayes said he doesn't want the city to pay for the project with 30-year bonds.

"I've got upset enough about the issue that I'm going to run for city council," he said. "I have decided I don't just want to be a complainer. I want to get involved."

In April, the four-year seats of city council members Joe Salb and Lee Whaley are up. The seat held by Gene Nelson, appointed last year when council member Jerry Roberts moved to Iowa, also will be up along with the seat held by present Mayor Stan Krysztof.

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