Archive for Saturday, February 1, 2003

Floodplain study costly, needed

February 1, 2003


The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission approved new floodplain development regulations last year with a caveat: Easily flooded North Lawrence, commissioners said, needs a little extra attention.

Now the city's stormwater engineer has offered a proposal for such a study -- an examination that could influence the pattern of development in the area for decades. But officials don't know where the money will come from to pay the study's $150,000 minimum price tag.

"This is probably a good example of a rock and a hard place," Mayor Sue Hack said Friday. "We've got to do this study."

Planning commissioners who developed the floodplain regulations said the city should spend money to better study North Lawrence, which flooded in 1993 and is threatened by waters from the Kansas River, Mud Creek and the Maple Grove Tributary.

"It was almost unanimous," Planning Commissioner John Haase said. "Flooding conditions there are somewhat unique to the area. It just seems prudent to have a full understanding of the conditions and possibilities of mitigation -- or, if mitigation isn't possible, we should know that and not waste money on development."

In a memorandum made public Friday, City Stormwater Engineer Chad Voigt noted North Lawrence had been studied before, resulting in the 1995 construction of a $1.1 million pump station there, as well as a system of ditches, pipes and pumps to divert gathering waters.

Still, Voigt noted, "regulations intended for citywide use have been far less successful."

He suggested a study to identify existing and potential land uses in North Lawrence and produce a plan to better drain the area. The study, Voigt said, would take six months and cost between $150,000 and $225,000.

That's a tough demand on a city still trying to find ways to deal with the loss of $1.38 million of state funds. But there's also pressure to do the study.

"We'd rather see the study done sooner," said Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Assn. "We definitely need some stormwater management done here -- especially for all the development that's planned up here."

Marilyn Bittenbender of Lawrence's Grubb and Ellis/The Winbury Group, said developers feared North Lawrence might be closed off to construction without a study.

"Information is always useful," she said. "Until that information is gathered, we don't know the right solution."

The City Commission will consider the recommendations at its next meeting, 6:35 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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