Three organizations have joined forces to oppose a pair of developments the groups contend should not be allowed under city-county development guidelines.
The presidents of Downtown Lawrence Inc., the League of Women Voters and the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods signed a joint letter saying decisions should be deferred on proposals for a Home Depot store at 31st Street and Ousdahl Road and a "big box" retail development at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
The letter said the developments with 271,836 square feet of retail space for Home Depot and 116,000 square feet for the main building of the "big box" development are bigger than allowed by Horizon 2020, the city-county comprehensive planning document.
Better to change the plan, the writers told the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, than repeatedly ignore it.
"Since zoning should follow the plan, should not the plan be re-evaluated and amended before significant departures are approved?" the letter asked. "It is certainly preferable to changing the plan through incremental decisions."
The planning commission already has approved zoning changes to allow construction of Home Depot despite the recommendations of planning office staffers who said it did not conform to Horizon 2020's guidelines. The Lawrence City Commission has indefinitely tabled the matter until it sees a preliminary development plan, which is under consideration tonight by the planning commission.
Dan Watkins, a Lawrence attorney representing the development, noted that planning staffers say the development plan will meet Horizon 2020 specifications if the zoning is changed.
"I think that's significant," he said.
The site, he said, is close and similar to other retail developments on South Iowa Street and is "the appropriate place to put this type of retail."
Jim Harpool of Dial Realty KC is overseeing the Sixth and Wakarusa development. Annexation and platting of the development are to be considered tonight.
Harpool said his company tried to comply with Horizon 2020 on nearly every detail, with the exception of the development size. But he said the guidelines are self-contradictory about the size of commercial development allowed.
The World Company, owner of the Journal-World, is listed as a property owner on the development application for Sixth and Wakarusa, but officials say the company's part in the proposal is under option to other parties.
Jeremy Douglas, executive director of Downtown Lawrence, said his organization will be represented at tonight's meeting.
"We just want to make sure our position is heard," he said. "We feel it's vital for downtown. There's already too much retail per capita, and we don't know if the city's prepared for more retail."
Betty Lichtwardt, a member of the League of Women Voters' land-use committee, agreed.
"It's just too much," she said. "If they don't observe Horizon 2020, they don't have any guidelines."
The planning commission meets at 6:30 p.m. in city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.