Someday there may be a McDonald's restaurant located at the intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
Just don't expect it to look like a McDonald's.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a "nodal plan" to guide future development at the intersection -- with commissioners paying special attention to design guidelines they said would prevent franchise stores at the site from looking like their counterparts in other communities.
"We don't want the typical McDonald's or the typical Kentucky Fried Chicken. We want the nice ones," said Commissioner Bonnie Johnson, who was the chief proponent of design guidelines.
"When you go driving around the country, you don't know that you've reached a different community because all the buildings look alike," she said. "We want something that looks like us, so people know they've arrived in Lawrence, not Anywhere U.S.A."
Developer Brian Kubota's request to rezone 67 acres on the intersection's southeast corner was approved by the Planning Commission in November but was derailed by the Lawrence City Commission's decision to seek a plan for the entire intersection.
Staff presented the Planning Commission with that plan in September. And while planning commissioners didn't disagree with its major components -- reserving commercial developments for the east side of the trafficway, with industrial uses slated for the west side -- they asked staff to come back with guidelines to govern the look of buildings at the site.
Instead of creating a set of guidelines, however, planners returned to the commission Wednesday with new wording for the plan asserting that developments will "reflect appropriate and compatible site design patterns."
Planner Bryan Dyer said staffers didn't have enough time to come up with a detailed set of guidelines. Downtown design guidelines required more than a year of development, with massive public input, before their adoption two years ago.
"To try to condense all that into this document, staff doesn't believe that would be a good public service," Dyer said.
Commissioners agreed to add language to the plan, requiring developments to have a "unified architectural theme" -- discouraging so-called "franchise architecture" without actually banning it.
Commissioner Ernie Angino was skeptical of the design standards.
"What is the Lawrence standard?" he said. "What is unique about Lawrence architecture that makes it stand out?"
The nodal plan will go to the Lawrence City Commission for consideration next month.