To the editor:
Recently city commissioners passed two of four single-family zoning ordinances designed to revitalize older, central-city Lawrence neighborhoods. They will soon address the remaining two. All four ordinances (the number of unrelated persons, non-conforming use registration, rental inspection and licensing) are needed to combat the destructive land use changes in these single-family zoned areas.
Lawrence needs housing inspection and licensing because so much of the modest housing stock in central-city, single-family zoned areas has been converted into rentals. Illegal modification of these properties into de facto duplexes ruins them for any future use as single-family homes. Illegally converted basements often are in violation of fire codes. Driveways are widened to accommodate multiple parking. The buildings deteriorate quickly under heavy use both internally and externally. Neighboring homeowners must bear the brunt of increased property taxes on their homes because of the new-use market values and land-use changes taking place around them. They in turn move out, creating more opportunities for investors.
We urge the city commission to pass the two remaining single-family zoning ordinances, rental inspection and licensing. Unless these ordinances are passed, the first two are meaningless. Since investors buy single-family zoned property to convert into rentals, they must be held responsible for the non-conforming land-use of that property, which is actually duplex or multi-family use. All four ordinances TOGETHER will begin the process of revitalizing our neighborhoods.
Incidentally, a recent LJW editorial suggested looking at doing something about four central-city elementary schools because of low enrollment, which we interpret as a suggestion to close or combine them. Enrollment levels in these neighborhood grade schools declined as a direct result of land use changes over the last decade. Without these schools there is NO incentive for families with children to live in central-city single-family neighborhoods, no matter what we do to revitalize them.
We urge the public to support the election of neighborhood-friendly city commissioners. Pay close attention to school board candidates who want to close or combine central-city elementary schools.