Archive for Friday, January 4, 2002

State denies preservationists more hearings on KU sites

January 4, 2002


Lawrence residents and preservationists won't get another public hearing on their challenge to Kansas University scholarship hall plans, a state official said Thursday.

Ramon Powers, the state historic preservation officer known also as SHPO is still weighing whether KU will be allowed to tear down three university-owned houses in the 1300 block of Ohio Street. The Oread Neighborhood Assn. and the Lawrence Preservation Alliance had asked for a public hearing.

But Dick Pankratz, Powers' deputy, noted Thursday that both city and campus historic preservation boards had conducted public hearings in arriving at different conclusions on the issue.

"The last time I talked to Dr. Powers on the matter, he was not inclined to hold a public hearing," Pankratz said. "He has the information those two bodies gathered. He doesn't feel the need for another hearing on the matter."

Opponents of KU's proposal criticized the announcement.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," said Pat Kehde, president of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance. "I think it's such a serious matter, both for the city and university, that the SHPO should solicit as much information as possible. I believe that's best done with a public hearing."

KU wants to raze the century-old houses now to make way for scholarship halls in the future. Preservationists are against that proposal, saying the homes should be restored and that the construction would represent too much encroachment by KU into the neighborhood.

The matter came before both the Campus Historic Preservation Board and the city's Historic Resources Commission because the houses are near two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places: Spooner Hall, at 14th Street and Oread Avenue, and Usher House, 1425 Tenn. Changes to the "environs" buildings and property near historic homes must be reviewed before proceeding.

The campus board voted in August to approve demolition. The city board voted against it in September. A joint October meeting of the bodies was the last chance to solve the impasse before sending the matter to the state historic preservation officer, but neither side gave any ground.

The public hearings that have taken place so far have reached completely opposite determinations," said Janet Gerstner, secretary for the Oread Neighborhood.

KU officials have said they weren't opposed to another public hearing.

There wouldn't be much time to hold that hearing, anyway. Under state law, Powers has until next week to announce a decision on the matter.

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