Archive for Thursday, November 24, 2005

Mayor proposes big-scale annexing

November 24, 2005


Mayor Boog Highberger is ready to begin annexing large chunks of land - whether landowners want to be part of the city or not - in an effort to build better planned neighborhoods.

Highberger for the last week has been discussing ideas to scrap the city's annexation policy, which generally doesn't force landowners to come into the city until they are ready. As a result of that policy, the city has historically annexed small chunks of land as developers are set to begin a new project.

"I know we're going to have to be sensitive to the desires of landowners, but if we are going to grow rationally, we can't grow piecemeal," Highberger said. "I want to make sure that we build true neighborhoods, and this is the only way I know to do it."

But it may be a more contentious way, Douglas County Commissioner Jere McElhaney said. McElhaney said a policy that would force unwilling landowners into the city was sure to create questions ranging from what farmers are to do with livestock to issues about forcing people to abandon water wells and septic systems they have spent money to create.

"Forced annexation can get to be almost like possession of property by eminent domain," McElhaney said. "The mayor has to be careful. He's talking about affecting people that aren't a part of his constituency."

More city control

Specifically, Highberger is proposing the city and county review the city's designated urban growth zone, the area that the city is expected to grow into during the next 25 years. He said the boundaries for the area may need to be redrawn. Once that is completed, Highberger said the city should annex all the area the city is expected to grow into during the next three to five years. That could involve annexing several hundred acres or more, though exact areas haven't been identified.

Highberger also wants the city to plan - with input from landowners - a street grid system for all the newly annexed areas.

Traditionally, developers have designed neighborhood street systems and submitted them to the city for approval. Under the new system, developers would be shown where streets need to be, and they would design their neighborhoods around that plan.

"I'm interested in doing something that makes the city more in control of the end product, and gives developers more predictability," Highberger said.

Members of the development community, though, have questions. Mark Buhler, an executive with Stephens Real Estate and former county commissioner, said annexation created an expectation that a property owner will be able to develop in the near term and receive city services.

Buhler said if the city begins annexing larger areas of land, that will create more expectations for the city to meet.

"Where I see this not working very well is that we have been woeful from a municipal standpoint about getting extensions of infrastructure and utilities in place," Buhler said. "This will require us to be a lot more proactive."

Otherwise, landowners could find themselves in the situation of being in the city limits and paying city taxes but not having the ability to build city-style development for several years.

Series examines growth

Starting Dec. 11, the Lawrence Journal-World and 6News will begin the series "Mapping the Future," examining the city's planning and growth.

But Highberger said he thought the new process would make it easier for the city to do comprehensive planning, which should ensure that new areas of town are served by streets and infrastructure systems that make sense. Plus, Highberger said the change would bring Lawrence in line with how other communities, including most in Johnson County, plan for growth.

Interest shown

The idea has support from other commissioners. City Commissioner David Schauner said the process would provide a more predictable development environment.

"The trick is how do we sit down with all the vested stockholders and make it work for everyone," Schauner said.

City Commissioner Sue Hack said she also supported the idea, but that it probably would require the community to participate in the process to set goals about how the city should develop.

The idea likely will need support from county commissioners also. That's because state law gives the County Commission power to block large-scale annexations if the landowners don't consent to the annexations.

City commissioners are expected to discuss Highberger's idea during their annual goal-setting session, which is expected to be either in December or January.


Ragingbear 12 years, 6 months ago

The problem we have here is this: If we don't eventually annex areas, then other areas nearby will, as they grow. If done properly, this will ensure a proper town size, with plenty of buffer where population is sparse, and nature is thick.

Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Eventually, Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City will probably be different cities in name only, and one will be unable to tell what city they are in except for the signs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

Hey, Marion, tell us how this is all part of the conspiracy to stifle growth you've uncovered.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

You're not, Marion? A difference without a distinction when it comes to sheer paranoia.

KsTwister 12 years, 6 months ago

So explain to me the reasoning for putting OUR money anywhere but where it is needed now.....sewers,streets,water treatment plants,legal fees,infrastructure stability?? Next election please.Can nothing be done to really fix what needs fixed now and then look to the future---obviously not.People don't like the traffic within the city now,add another 10k people to it?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

Just because you have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time doesn't mean everyone is similarly afflicted. We do need to take care of all of those current problems, but we also need to make sure that future growth doesn't blindside us because we have continued the poor planning practices that created those current problems.

cowboy 12 years, 6 months ago

Can anyone give me a good reason why the county residents would want to be annexed. I can't think of a single reason

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

Yea, old Boog, the evil "bogeyman." I bet he's hiding under you bed, Marion.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

Much of the land proposed for annexation is the greenbelt they want to use to cut off growth.

The thought of annexing more land for the city planners to control is a joke. They can't even handle what they've got.

These commissioners have proven to be such a sorry lot that the public should force them to halt any new programs until the next election. The rallying cry is "Stall, stall, stall!!"

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

I would guess that most of those residents don't want to be annexed unless they have land they want to sell for a tidy sum to prospective developers.

Sigmund 12 years, 6 months ago

'Hi, I'm from the City of Lawrence and I'm here to help you build rational neighborhoods.' Be afraid, be very afraid. "Forced annexation can get to be almost like possession of property by eminent domain", in fact it can be worse.

With eminent domain the property is taken, previous owners are compensated, and the land transfers to new owners who agree to be subject to regulation and taxation by the City. Annexation takes away some of the current owners rights to land use and subjects them to new taxation, without the agreement of the owners. If I am not mistaken Courts have held that City regulation can be so complete the City has defacto "taken" the property without compensation, a bad thing under the Constitution.

Some land owners will want to be annexed as it obligates the City to provide services to the land like sewers (don't laugh to hard) for the price of an increased tax obligation. Fine and dandy, I have no problem with that. Other landowners will want to keep their current property as it is, and the uses they can put it to now, they don't want the City services nor to pay the additional taxes. I have a problem with my City forcing landowners into an agreement they do not wish to enter. Annexation amounts to an offer you can't refuse, and those terms almost always favor the offeror not the offeree.

I can only hope the County Commission isn't as "progressive" as the Current Mayor and that they protect the rights of individual property owners in Douglas County to choose to be, or not to be, a part of the City of Lawrence.

wlpywd 12 years, 6 months ago

i would love lawrence to grow, but, i must agree that our government for the last 5-10 years has shown repeatedly (seriously, over and over and over) that it can not manage or handle what we already have. Fix the sewers, streets, flooding, crime+homelessness, traffic, city upkeep, etc. --------

it's so funny this is here after Pat got the SLT federal money, the biggest annex area is the huge block south right where they want to build it. Wipe out the whole wetlands obsticle in one huge swoop

Jamesaust 12 years, 6 months ago

The idea that such a policy change is a means to stiffle growth is so silly that no further comment is needed other than to note Buhler's correct observation - once annexed, next apartment complex.

"'Forced annexation can get to be almost like possession of property by eminent domain,' McElhaney said."

We've heard this sort of crazy talk from McElhaney before. There's no such thing as "almost like" eminent domain. While there will be surely legitimate concerns over the annexation process, the comments made here are illegitimate whining. If government does something that enhances the value of your property, property owners do not write a check back to the government for their windfall. Likewise, government action can also lessen the value of one's property but the government does not owe you money. Government's 'taking' must involve all or substantially all of the value of the property before any legal liability is incurred. Anyone living within sight of Lawrence knows very well that the day will come when they are annexed. It detracts from as well as adds to the value of their property simultaneously. The City is not going to be subject to a shakedown from whiners complaining about every detraction while taking the value of the enhancement to their bank.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

On the one hand, the commission gets criticized for "stifling growth," but when they propose annexing property into the city, which is the only way for the city to grow, they get criticized for stealing property rights. How does this theft occur? This annexation is being explored because it might aid the proper planning that would allow us to avoid the problems that we are now experiencing-- problems that originated years before the dreaded "progressives" had anything but token influence on the commission, but when it was controlled by the very developers now claiming that the growth to which they are addicted is being "stifled." Unbelievable, circular idiocy.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 12 years, 6 months ago

Does this mean that there will be a roundabout on the drive to Ottawa??

kansasboy 12 years, 6 months ago

This town is going to hell. There is a reason people live in the country. Grow crops, raise livestock, get the hell away from the city. If I was those farmers I would hold out for everything its worth. What are they going to do to the farmers that depend on agriculture as a means of income. It would look silly to have 10 acres of winter wheat in a Johnson County style subdivision. I hope the country boys put up a good fight. KEEP LAWRENCE SMALL.

lunacydetector 12 years, 6 months ago

this looks like a veiled attempt to keep the city and county planning married to each other. if the prime developmental ground in the county is annexed into the city, the city has total control over everything of value in the county and it removes any county planning from the county commission - especially if city and county planning eventually split - which i predict will happen after the next city commission election and the current city commission gets booted once and for all.

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