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Archive for Saturday, January 24, 2004

Officials reach compromise on size of community commercial developments

January 24, 2004

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Deadlocked city and county officials have found agreement on the future of commercial development in Lawrence, officials said Friday.

"It would appear to me we're making some real progress here," Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson said.

The city and county commissions had been split over the maximum size of future "community commercial" developments, such as the clustering of retail stores surrounding the intersection of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

Horizon 2020, the city-county comprehensive plan, puts a limit of 450,000 square feet on such developments.

The Douglas County Commission, backed by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, had favored a limit of 500,000 square feet; the Lawrence City Commission wanted 350,000 square feet.

The rift threatened to leave Lawrence and Douglas County with two sets of rules for commercial development, ending joint efforts at planning that stretched back decades.

In the last month, however, talks among city, county and planning officials, as well as some developers, pushed all the parties to a compromise: 400,000 square feet.

"I think I can live with it," Mayor David Dunfield said Friday.

"If it's acceptable to the City Commission, it's acceptable to me, and I hope it's acceptable to the County Commission," Johnson said.

He noted that the limit was similar to what is allowed under the current version of Horizon 2020.

"What we've been doing doesn't seem so terribly flawed, so why would we depart from it that much?" Johnson said.

But Dunfield suggested upcoming revisions to Horizon 2020 would make it harder for developers to reach that limit. New rules will require market studies to determine if new commercial development is needed.

Both sides said they were glad to get the matter resolved.

"Rather than all of us walk away and say it won't work, we decided to see if we could find a reasonable compromise," Johnson said. "I think we've done that."

The Lawrence City Commission takes up the issue at its next meeting, at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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