Lawrence city commissioners said Tuesday night that they won't impose a moratorium on rezoning at 31st and Iowa streets to block a proposed Home Depot development there.
But they also made it clear they won't necessarily give rubber-stamp approval to the project when it hits their desk next month, despite a favorable recommendation from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.
"I've been known to vote against the planning commission," Commissioner Jim Henry said.
A coalition of neighborhood associations asked the city earlier this month to impose the moratorium, noting that Horizon 2020 the city-county long-range planning guide was against commercial development at that location. Neighborhood residents also said the development would increase stormwater drainage problems in the area.
Chad Voigt, a stormwater engineer for the city, documented those problems Tuesday night for the city commission. Three watersheds converge in the area, he said, and send water down an increasingly clogged channel to the Wakarusa River.
"There's plenty of obstruction in the area," Voigt said.
He said the Home Depot development would increase the area's impermeable surface about 1 percent or 2 percent, creating more runoff, but that homes in nearby neighborhoods already are built to the edge of the floodplain.
That means some homes already have flooding problems. Jim Turrentine, 2905 Belle Haven Drive, showed commissioner pictures of water creeping up his driveway during a 2-inch rainstorm earlier this month.
"It gets worse every year," he said.
Larry Kipp, of Friends of Douglas County, said proposed development of the South Lawrence Trafficway could add to the water flow problems.
"If the SLT goes in on 32nd Street, it's not going to go in on piers," he said.
Bob Schumm, a former city commissioner, said the problems were caused by developments that had been approved by a "pro-growth" planning commission going against the strictures of Horizon 2020.
"You've got people suffering because of development," he said. "How many times have they said, 'Let's be more flexible and make it more restrictive?' I submit never."
Henry agreed. Horizon 2020, he said, "needs to be more strictly interpreted."
But he said he opposed the moratorium for a project already in the pipeline. Instead, he suggested, commissioners can choose to reject rezoning on its merits, including those outlined in Horizon 2020.
"We have the tools," Commissioner David Dunfield added.
The Home Depot project already has the deck stacked against it. Because more the 20 percent of surrounding property owners signed a protest petition, the five-member commission must approve the rezoning by a "supermajority" of four commissioners.
That vote, city officials said, will probably take place May 8.