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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Commission rejects Southeast Area Plan

City leaders say developers need to give more thought to growth

June 15, 2005

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Much more thought needs to be put into a plan that will spell out the future of approximately 1,200 acres of property southeast of the city limits, city commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday.

Commissioners said that Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners should start over on developing the Southeast Area Plan for a chunk of largely undeveloped property that is south of Kansas Highway 10 and east of O'Connell Road. Planning commissioners had approved the plan on a 5-4 vote in February after nearly two years of work, but city commissioners on Tuesday heard many calls from the public for delay.

"We want to do what is right, and if that takes a little bit longer then it takes a little bit longer," said City Commissioner Sue Hack.

The plan approved by planning commissioners in February would have allowed for about 520 acres of industrial land near the area surrounding the Douglas County Jail. Several developers and property owners had advocated for less industrial uses and more residential development.

On Tuesday, city commissioners said they weren't ready to move forward with any proposal until planners did more work on determining the need for additional roads to handle the expected increase in traffic with either industrial or residential development.

"I think we have to have a better traffic plan for this area," said City Commissioner Mike Amyx, who said planners specifically needed to address how 31st Street might be extended to serve the area. "If we don't do that, we're going to fill the existing neighborhoods with traffic."

Several residents in the area said they appreciated the delay.

"We're delighted with it," said Karen Heeb, who lives on property near the Wakarusa River that was slated to become a future industrial area according to the plan. "It just sounds like there needs to be a lot more study that needs to be done."

Commissioners said they wanted Heeb's area - which includes about 10 residences south of North 1300 Road - to either be left out of the plan or to be labeled as a low density residential area.

Commissioners also said they were willing to consider allowing a proposed commercial and residential development near the southeast corner of O'Connell Road and Kansas Highway 10 to move forward. That portion of the 1,200-acre piece of property largely has not been the subject of disagreement between planners and neighbors, but the project has not been allowed to move forward for more than a year because other portions of the plan have not been adopted.

No date has been set yet for planning commissioners to begin work on a new plan.

Pedestrian island plans discontinued

City commissioners Tuesday night quickly discontinued plans to build a pedestrian island on a busy portion of Sixth Street after several neighbors questioned the project.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting received a report on the feasibility of constructing a crosswalk with a center island at the intersection of Sixth and Louisiana streets. Several members of the adjacent Pinckney and Old West Lawrence neighborhoods, however, questioned whether the crossing would actually add to pedestrian safety.

After hearing the concerns, Mayor Boog Highberger - who had requested the report - said there was no need to proceed with the project if it did not have the support of neighbors.

Art event receives funds

An international art event is set to come to Lawrence this fall now that city commissioners have agreed to provide $5,000 in funding.

Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to a midyear funding request from the Lawrence-based F.A.N. Club to host a group of nine Canadian women artists in October and November.

The Canadian artists will show their work at the Lawrence Arts Center, Kansas University's Art and Design Gallery and other private galleries in the community. The event is part of an artist exchange program that began in 2002 when nine Lawrence women artists traveled to Ottawa, Canada, to show their work.

Ann Kuckelman Cobb, a member of F.A.N. - a women's art organization - said the event would increase the city's reputation as a first-rate art community. The city funding will be just a portion of the estimated $15,000 that the group will need for the event.

Further study requested for future business parks

City commissioners told members of the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Board to keep studying areas near the airport and the former Farmland Industries plant as possible locations for future business parks.

Commissioners stopped short of fully endorsing the two areas, but they said they were interested enough in the sites for the board to study how much it would cost to bring the areas online as new industrial centers.

But commissioners also said that economic development leaders needed to pay attention to planning efforts that would be going on as part of the Southeast Area Plan, which could call for significant amounts of industrial space south and east of the O'Connell Road and Kansas Highway 10 area.

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