Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Project seeks to build common ground

April 6, 2001


The census proves it.

So do the number of permits issued for new construction, the bulging classrooms in our schools and the number of cars on our streets and roads.

It all adds up to this: The Lawrence area is growing. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

For too long, many of us who care deeply about the Lawrence area have been divided along some comfortable old battle lines. Either we're for growth or against it, and that's that. Developers are for growth; neighborhood groups are against it. Big business is for growth and environmentalists are against it. And on and on down the list of tired stereotypes.

But recently, a handful of new groups has started seeking common ground and is finding it.

From a committee of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce looking for space for new business parks to a group pushing for the ideals of "Smart Growth," and with a boost from the recent Bert Nash community summit, people are talking.

And they're learning we all aren't so far apart on the issues of growth.

"There are so many things we're finding where we can agree," Charles Jones said at a recent meeting of ECO2, the chamber committee.

A series of stories will run from April 15 through May 6 on 6News, in the Lawrence Journal-World and online at town hall meeting will be 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. May 7 at Liberty Hall. The event will be cablecast live with call-in and e-mail opportunities.

Jones, a Douglas County commissioner, sits on the committee alongside a commercial Realtor, officials from city halls in Lawrence and surrounding communities, a farmer, an environmentalist, a banker and others of diverse backgrounds.

And they're finding agreement.

"There's a lot more common ground than we thought there was," said Kelvin Heck, a Realtor who chairs the committee.

All it took was taking the time to sit down, listen and learn about each other.

And that's what The World Company is hoping it can help continue on a much wider scale.

Through a year-long project dubbed "Lawrence is Growing Finding Common Ground," the Journal-World, 6News and World Online are providing a series of forums, focus groups, neighborhood meetings, televised meetings, electronic town meetings and other ways for us all to join in a meaningful conversation about growth in and around Lawrence.

Starting Sunday, April 15, a series of stories will begin explaining the timeline of Lawrence growth, how it's been shaped, outlining some of the battles and successes and looking at the experiences in some other towns.

In the newspaper, on 6News and online, all of us can reach out to shake hands with our neighbors and start looking for agreement on how our community will grow.

After a three-week series of stories, a televised town meeting is planned for May 7. It will give us a chance to have a communitywide chat and, we hope, launch us into a long discussion about what we can do to ensure our community's future is the best it can be.

Ultimately, we hope the work will provide the basis for a new growth plan. At least, it should get us talking and understanding each other. And that's important for the community.

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