Archive for Thursday, September 9, 2004

Revised Southeast Area Plan still lacks consensus

September 9, 2004


Plans for the future of 1,300 acres in southeast Lawrence have been revised to include more industrial land, but they stop short of pushing a proposed housing development off the site.

The latest draft of the Southeast Area Plan was criticized by Planning Commission Chairman John Haase, who has suggested nearly the entire area be used for industrial sites.

"This community has expressed interest in economic development," Haase said at a Wednesday morning meeting of the commission. "I ask, is there any other land that will come into the system in the next five to 10 years that will have access to infrastructure in acreages of this size?"

Other commissioners challenged Haase, saying affordable housing also is needed in Lawrence. Townhomes in the proposed development would probably sell for "south of" $150,000, developers have said.

"Unless I'm missing something, this is the last large tract left in Lawrence that you'll be able to do anything about low-cost housing or medium-cost housing," Planning Commissioner Ernie Angino said. "Let's stop talking about it -- let's plan it out, lay it out that way."

The Southeast Area Plan maps out the future of land south of the closed Farmland Industries Inc. fertilizer plant on Kansas Highway 10, between O'Connell and Noria roads and north of the Wakarusa River. The plan, which must be approved by the Lawrence City Commission once the Planning Commission's review is finished, will guide future land-use decisions in the area.

A first draft of the plan envisioned mostly low- and medium-density residential uses for the land, with roughly 300 acres of industrial land set aside along the north edge.

Commissioners in July delayed approving the plan, saying most of the property could be used to fill the need for 1,000 acres of industrial land sought by economic development officials.

Lawrence and Douglas County governments both have passed resolutions calling for identification of such land. ECO2, a county-appointed committee, has been searching for industrial sites -- though ECO2 members told the Planning Commission last month that residential development in southeast Lawrence shouldn't be delayed by their efforts.

The new draft offered by city planners Wednesday adds roughly 100 acres of industrial land to the mix, eliminating a proposed elementary school from the site. Lawrence school district officials had said it was unlikely they would want to build there.

The new proposal also leaves room for Lawrence developer Bill Newsome's proposal to build 200 apartments and 55 townhouses on 180 acres of the property

"This is actually a much better plan than in the past," said Planning Commissioner Terry Riordan.

But Haase was adamant that the site would best be used for industrial needs.

"This area has the best transportation network in the community, and it has access to infrastructure" such as water and sewer service, Haase said.

Planning Director Linda Finger said that land north of Sixth Street near the K-10 interchange west of Lawrence also would be suitable

"I think it compares very favorably, because you're less than five minutes from the Lecompton interchange" of the Kansas Turnpike, she said.

The Planning Commission is expected to take action on the plan at its October meeting.

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