Archive for Tuesday, June 24, 2003

City unveils proposed zoning codes

June 24, 2003


The city on Monday made public proposed new zoning codes that will govern how Lawrence grows for decades to come.

Planners said the new codes would create more flexibility and variety in development options -- but would also give city administrators a stronger hand in guiding those options.

"What developers, over time, have said is, 'Tell us what the rules are, and we'll plan accordingly," said Sheila Stogsdill, the city's assistant planning director.

Among the wrinkles: new zoning districts for residential neighborhoods, open space and land newly annexed into Lawrence.

"I think the new zoning districts are going to deal with a lot of the problems that we've had in the past," said Betty Lichtwardt, a member of the League of Women Voters land-use committee and the city's Zoning Advisory Committee that reviewed the proposal.

Among the highlights:

  • The codes would create a new "urban reserve" zoning district for lands annexed into the city.

Under the zoning, the city would create an area plan -- governing everything from land use to city services -- for new lands before allowing development to go forward. In the meantime, agricultural and other existing uses would be allowed to continue.

"It really is a holding zone," Stogsdill said.

Such a district would presumably have been used by the city when it annexed more than 600 acres on Sixth Street, between Wakarusa Drive and the South Lawrence Trafficway, in 2001. City officials didn't decide to create an area plan for any part of the corridor until developers proposed a "big box" store at the southwest edge of the road.

  • A new "open space" zoning district would allow private landowners to set aside property to be exempt from development.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Carey Maynard-Moody, of the Alliance for the Conservation of Open Space. "I'd like to study it a little bit further. I've seen so much zoning get shifted, that it makes it difficult to accept that as the best we can do. I think we can have a bigger vision than that."

  • New single-family zoning districts would be allowed on 5,000-square-foot lots similar to those in older parts of Lawrence planned before the current zoning codes made 7,000-square-foot lots the minimum size in 1966. Officials say it should make redevelopment of older neighborhoods easier, and could create similar cozy neighborhoods in newer areas of town.

Neighborhood advocates, developers and other interested residents started burrowing into the roughly 200-page document immediately when it was released Monday, looking to see what other changes were in store.

"The city's comprehensive plan is very important, and this is how we get there," said Bobbie Flory, director of the Lawrence Home Builders Assn. "I think it's something that needs to be reviewed by everybody. It's very important."

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission plans "listening" meetings regarding the proposed new zoning codes on July 10 and July 31.Both meetings will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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