Harold Shepard won't get the city's approval to build his apartment complex at Seventh and Wisconsin streets.
The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday indicated it would reject Shepard's site plan for the project, but it delayed a final vote three weeks in a maneuver to fend off an anticipated lawsuit in the matter.
Though commissioners unanimously consented to delay their vote while the city crafts its legal basis for rejection of the site plan, Mayor Mike Rundle said the possibility of litigation shouldn't deter the commission's decision.
"We can't make decisions based on guessing whether people will appeal things to the court," Rundle said after the meeting.
Price Banks, Shepard's attorney on the project, wouldn't say whether his client planned to sue City Hall.
"It's certainly an option," Banks said after the meeting. "It's always an option."
Tuesday's decision came three weeks after Shepard's representatives withdrew the 25-unit project from City Commission consideration in the face of likely rejection.
"We thought we could convince them," Banks said of Tuesday's second attempt.
"I'm trying to get a site plan that can be friendly to the neighbors, more friendly than any project that has been done there," Shepard told commissioners.
The project is opposed by the surrounding Hillcrest, Pinckney and Old West Lawrence neighborhood associations, which say the apartment complex would generate too much traffic for the area.
Commissioners in July approved a six-month moratorium on new construction in the area after agreeing to the neighborhoods' request to create an "area plan" to guide growth there.
On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously said they agreed with the neighborhoods' appraisal of the project.
"I don't think this plan is compatible with the existing (land) uses," Commissioner Boog Highberger said.
At the suggestion of Assistant City Manager Dave Corliss, commissioners decided to delay a final vote until they can approve "findings of fact" that will set out the legal basis for the rejection. Those findings would constitute the city's defense against any lawsuit.
The final vote is expected at the commission's Aug. 24 meeting.