Archive for Tuesday, July 2, 2002

s authority questioned

July 2, 2002

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The attorney for a neighborhood group fighting Kansas University's intended demolition of three houses in the 1300 block of Ohio Street is challenging Gov. Bill Graves' authority to decide the matter.

"I object to the governor considering this matter in the first place," Ronald Schneider, a Lawrence attorney representing the Oread Neighborhood Assn. and Lawrence Preservation Alliance, said in a letter sent Friday to the governor's office.

"The review ... is the responsibility of the Board of Regents," Schneider said, "and therefore, the governor is without jurisdiction to consider this project."

Kristin Heuertz, a spokesman for Graves, on Monday dismissed Schneider's assertion.

"We disagree with his interpretation of the statute," she said. "The governor has control over this."

Graves' decision on whether to allow demolition, Heuertz said, is due "in the next couple of days."

If Graves rules for KU, he has to give the State Historic Preservation Officer five days notice before demolition can proceed. And if that happens, Schneider said, "it's definitely a possibility a lawsuit will be filed."

KU wants to tear down the dilapidated, century-old houses on Ohio Street to make way for scholarship halls. But the university has been prevented from doing so because of a state preservation officer's ruling in March that the demolitions would harm the historic value of nearby Usher House, 1425 Tenn.

That house, now being used by Beta Theta Pi fraternity, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway in June appealed the ruling to Graves. Last week, the Lawrence City Commission asked Graves to take public comment and conduct a public hearing before deciding. Graves' representatives have said there will be no public hearing on the matter because of the amount of comment taken earlier.

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