Archive for Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sewer concerns back up projects

October 13, 2005


Developers wanting to know whether they can proceed with new projects in Lawrence's popular northwest growth corridor received a clear answer Wednesday.


City commissioners said they weren't confident the city's sewer system could handle additional growth - in large part because they are no longer confident City Hall staffers planned for the right number of people in the area.

In some parts of northwest Lawrence, there might be more residents than were expected by 2010.

"I think we're in a situation where we don't know what is going on," City Commissioner Sue Hack said at a morning study session. "This has opened up a big can of worms."

Such concerns - about the area near Kasold Drive and Peterson Road - led to a utility department recommendation earlier this month that building permits for the neighborhood should be halted until further studies of the sewer system can be completed.

Those studies likely won't be completed until March or April, officials said, and it could take several more months to fix any problems that the report uncovers.

Developers said the entire situation had created an unhealthy level of uncertainty threatening Lawrence's future growth.

"There are a lot of people who don't know what to think," Mark Buhler, an executive at Stephens Real Estate, told commissioners. "Five thousand questions are coming with every situation right now."

Looking for answers

The building industry is generally considered one of the engines of the city's economy. A shutdown in building permits could have ripple effects on jobs and wages.

But city officials tried to assure developers that not all building will come to a halt in the area. Debbie Van Saun, assistant city manager, said 400 single-family home sites in the northwest area have been approved and should still receive building permits despite sewer concerns.

Van Saun said the number of new building permits issued for the area should have been more closely monitored by City Hall. But she added that dealing with population projections was difficult.

"It is kind of a crystal ball type of situation," Van Saun said. "It (population projecting) might be more of an art than a science, but we would like for it to become more of a science."

Hack chided staff members for the confusion.

"To have that deer in the headlights look, I can do that well enough on my own," Hack said. "The point I'm making is that I didn't know anything about this, and I think that is wrong that commissioners didn't know this because it has a tremendous impact on our community."

Possible solutions

City staffers now recommend that new studies go beyond just sewers. Van Saun said the entire Northwest Area Plan - the document that guides growth for the area - needs updating.

If the sewer studies confirm the problems that staff members suspect, City Hall could enlarge sewer pump stations and add new lines in the area. That could be expensive, Van Saun said, or delay other infrastructure problems around town.

Several city commissioners, though, said the issue had to be addressed.

"If we don't have the facilities for wastewater, we don't have growth," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.

Hack said she was interested in finding out why the projections were wrong - and in holding proper people accountable.

"That's going to have to be a serious city commission and staff discussion," Hack said.

City staffers, though, said they believed they were taking the prudent steps. Van Saun said that was better than learning about the problems after sewers began to back up into basements or overflow at pump stations.

"We're trying to be more forward thinking and less reactionary," Van Saun said.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

Should the city have done a better job at projecting and monitoring the amount of growth in the NW area? Possibly. But the fact is that this is just one of the costs of growth.

Infrastructure will always have to be built and/or modified to accommodate it. The only way this could have been avoided with 100% certainty would have been to overbuild capacity beyond the growth that was expected, but who pays for that?

If developers don't like this situation, perhaps they should be more willing to pony up for the costs of expanding infrastructure to accommodate any amount of growth that they might promote. Otherwise, sometimes growth will outpace infrastructure.

delta77 12 years, 3 months ago

You know, if city hall made poor projections, it is unequivocably not the fault of developers. Some of you folks have an irrational grudge.

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 3 months ago

The developers don't have the best interests of Lawrence in mind; all they're thinking about is the money they stand make by selling lots. And they do not care if someone's sewer backs up into a basement, as they don't live in those neighborhoods, and many developers don't even live within the city limits.

TruthSeeker 12 years, 3 months ago


You should tell people the truth. The truth shall set you free you know.

simplyamazed 12 years, 3 months ago

The really sad thing is that the people who did the study and gave the projections for 2010 are the same ones doing the study again! Just how good will the information be this time? They need to expand and stop using Black & Vetch solely for these issues. They should learn from past mistakes on using this firm but they still go back to them. What's wrong with this picture?......

lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

hasn't the sewer system been outdated for years? yes.

this is lawrence, kansas. business UNfriendly.

ask anyone from around here or from out of town.

lawrence has a very bad reputation. in fact, in most parts of kansas and neighboring states, watch the eyebrows raise and the eyeballs roll when you tell them you're from lawrence. i tell everyone i live in kansas city just so i don't have to explain that i am not one of the many loons that occupy our city. it's always an uncomfortable situation. what a pity.

the biggest mistake that lawrence business leaders did was address and seriously consider the wacky fringe in this town. it gave the wacky's credibility.

who will pay for all these "necessary" green space / industrial ground proposals? the greenies get $5 Million from where? and the business leaders want $20 Million for their cause based on unsubstantiated claims it will bring big industry to town. toyota is looking for a city in the united states -there's a prospect that is considering lawrence as well as 5,000 other communities. sounds like a "just" cause for $20 Million.

where do those funds come from? will the dissenting party get $5 Million to shut their trap? time will tell where the funding will come from. if it from the taxpayers, there is going to be a big fight.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

Newsflash, Luny, nearly everything costs money, and in one fashion or another, everybody will eventually pick up the tab for any expenditures, public or private, whether it's through taxation, or passed on by businesses to their customers.

The cost of the green space plan, if it happens, will be paid for through some form of taxes, but it is being planned because it benefits the community as a whole. For antisocial tighta**'s like yourself, if something doesn't benefit you exclusively, you oppose it.

In a democracy, that's your right, but just because you refuse to recognize that anything and everything you have is because you live in society does not negate that fact. We have to tolerate your and too many others' sociopathology, but we don't have to like it, or pretend that it is a mature or logical way to look at the world.

lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

so you are in support of the city paying for the sewer upgrade? thanks, that is mighty nice of you, bozo.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 3 months ago

I think that the additions and upgrades to the sewer system should be paid for by those that require the additions. If the sewer system in the older parts of the city needs improvements, that should be paid for through funds that are generated through sewer/water fees.

But I suppose you would call that business unfriendly.

lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

"but it is being planned because it benefits the community as a whole. For antisocial tighta**'s like yourself, if something doesn't benefit you exclusively, you oppose it."

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 3 months ago

"You know, if city hall made poor projections, it is unequivocably not the fault of developers. Some of you folks have an irrational grudge."

I have no grudge against responsible development that benefits the citizens and taxpayers of Lawrence/Douglas County. I do have a grudge against out of town developers who are trying to turn Lawrence into another suburb of Kansas City.

"i tell everyone i live in kansas city just so i don't have to explain that i am not one of the many loons that occupy our city. it's always an uncomfortable situation."

So rather than acknowledging that Lawrence has some problems, but it's where you've chosen to call your home, you'd rather lie about it. Very nice. So when you're found out to be living here, people will think that loons and liars are all that live here.

lunacydetector 12 years, 3 months ago

no spikey marbles, when they find out that i actually live in lawrence they totally understand.

on another note: didn't the sewer back up a few years ago as well as this recent rain storm that sent overflow into the kaw??

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