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Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Commission rejects plans for sorority house

Neighbors opposed proposed development

May 7, 2003

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So much for the "smart-growth" monolith on the Lawrence City Commission.

Commissioners on Tuesday rejected plans for a proposed Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house that was opposed by neighbors northeast of Kansas University campus.

But they did so on a split 3-2 vote that suggested the 4-1 smart-growth supermajority won't be an automatic coalition on all development issues.

Mayor David Dunfield, who backed the smart-growth Progressive Lawrence Campaign during last month's commission election, split with his Progressive colleagues and voted with Commissioner Sue Hack in favor of the plans despite neighborhood opposition.

He said the positives of an 88-resident Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house proposed for 1520 Sigma Nu Place outweighed the negatives.

"We do promote infill development" of vacant lots in established neighborhoods, Dunfield said. "But it's hard to achieve infill development. While everybody likes it in the abstract, hardly anybody likes it in their back yard."

Residents of nearby Avalon Road opposed the development, saying the building would be too big, attract too much traffic and would probably generate too much noise for the neighborhood.

Jeff Shenkel, the project architect, defended the proposal by noting the plans had shrunk the house from 52 feet tall to 45 feet.

"We've tried to address some of those (neighborhood) issues," Shenkel said. "The building is oriented to be sensitive to the neighbors."

Price Banks, an attorney representing the neighbors, disagreed.

"We're talking about a structure as high as City Hall, adjacent to single-family lots," Banks said.

Commissioner Dennis "Boog" Highberger said the proposal was too big to be near single-family houses.

"I have some serious concerns about the scale of this project," he said.

Highberger joined Commissioners David Schauner and Mike Rundle in voting against the proposal.

Alpha Gamma Delta members declined to comment after the meeting.

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