Archive for Tuesday, December 12, 2006

East Lawrence development seeks city’s approval

December 12, 2006, 12:00 a.m. Updated December 12, 2006, 3:09 p.m.


Bars, liquor stores, pawn shops and a variety of other uses won't be coming to a major East Lawrence development if city commissioners approve an agreement at their meeting tonight.

Commissioners are being asked to approve a pair of rezoning requests for a redevelopment of the area near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets that Lawrence builder Bo Harris wants to convert into a residential, retail and commercial district.

The list of banned uses - which number 13 - came about after commissioners urged Harris and members of the East Lawrence neighborhood to work on details of the proposed project.

"I've been genuinely pleased with where things have gone since those discussions," Mayor Mike Amyx said. "I think a lot of the issues have been hammered out, but we'll see where the discussion leads us."

Attempts to reach Harris and several leaders of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association were not successful Monday. The project - which would rehabilitate several buildings, in addition to constructing five buildings along Pennsylvania Street - has been controversial.

Neighborhood concerns

Neighbors have been concerned that the development will be too dense, attract businesses that are not compatible with the area and create parking problems. Harris has countered that the project will improve the area by rehabilitating several buildings that are vacant and deteriorating.

City commissioners - on a 4-1 vote - gave the project tentative approval in August, but they instructed both sides to work on details of the project. City Commissioner David Schauner, who was the lone vote against the project in August, said he's not sure that the proposed zoning conditions do enough to protect the neighborhood.

"I think we're still bending over backwards to accommodate the developer on parking," Schauner said. "I think we're still going to see some overflow of parking into the neighborhood."

Banned businesses

These business types would not be allowed in a proposed project to redevelop the area near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets, if city commissioners approve the agreement at tonight's meeting.

¢ Bars, unless at least 55 percent of sales are from food ¢ Liquor stores ¢ Ambulance services ¢ Car or truck washes ¢ Auto repair shops ¢ Businesses with drive-up ATMs or drive-through lanes ¢ Furriers ¢ Pawn shops ¢ Mobile home sales and service ¢ Golf driving ranges ¢ Pet stores ¢ Payday loan offices ¢ Convenience stores with gasoline

The zoning conditions, however, do attempt to address the parking issue. City planning staff member Lisa Pool said Harris had agreed to new parking requirements that increase the amount of parking for retail, residential and office uses in the district.

The agreement did not change one of the more contentious parts of the development. Plans still call for 54 condominium units to be built on the west side of Pennsylvania Street between Eighth and Ninth streets. That portion of the project will include five new buildings that each could be up to three stories in height.

Funding improvements

Questions also remain about the financing of nearly $3 million worth of street, sidewalk and stormwater improvements needed to accommodate the project.

Commissioners have expressed an interest in using the Neighborhood Revitalization Act as a way to rebate the new property taxes that the project would generate, as long as Harris agrees to use the rebated taxes to pay for the infrastructure improvements.

Harris estimates that the infrastructure improvements - which include extending Delaware Street from Ninth Street to Eighth Street - will cost $2.8 million. Under the proposed Neighborhood Revitalization Act agreement, the developers would have the new property taxes rebated for a period of 10 years, and the total rebate could not exceed the total cost for the infrastructure improvements. It would mark the first time the city has used the Neighborhood Revitalization Act to rebate property taxes.

Commissioners have expressed an interest in using the Neighborhood Revitalization Act as a way to avoid using city at-large funds to pay for the public infrastructure improvements. But for the Neighborhood Revitalization Act to generate enough property tax rebates to cover the entire $2.8 million price tag, City Manager David Corliss said the county and the Lawrence school district likely would have to agree to participate in the tax rebate plan.

Corliss said he has alerted school and county leaders that such a request might be made of them in the coming months.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


cutny 10 years ago

Boo. Vote No. What? Harris has run out of land to build his "minimum code" houses on and now wants to get into urban planning? What a joke

kshiker 10 years ago

It sounds like the developer bent over backwards to appease the neighborhood critics. If this project isn't approved, then this City Commission is worthless!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

Given that this already recieved a 4-1 tentative approval from the city commission, unless there are objections from the neighborhood we haven't yet heard about, this will be approved.

budwhysir 10 years ago

a 4 to 1 vote breaks down this way 4 people voted one way and 1 person voted another.

If we have another person voting, the results could have been 5 to 1 or 4 go 2

either way the results would be equal in standing

Scott Tichenor 10 years ago

I sure am going to miss the bus graveyard. A real slice of East Lawrence history there.

Godot 10 years ago

From the paper JW, the proposed project would ban 13 types of businesses in the neighborhood:

bars, unless at least 55 percent of sales are from food liquor stores ambulance services car or truck washes auto repair shops businesses with drive-up ATJMs or drive-through lanes furriers pawn shops mobile home sales and service golf driving ranges pet stores payday loan offices convenience stores with gasoline

Who came up with this list? East Lawrence neighbors of the project?

It is interesting that the neighbors did not see a need to ban:

head shops tatoo parlors used clothing stores junk stores smoke shops (aka hookah bars) massage parlors XXX video stores video game arcade pool halls pest control shops dance halls laundromats

Feel free to add to the list of businesses that, if your goal was to maintain a peaceful,family-friendly neighborhood, you would ban....

J Good Good 10 years ago

The list came straight from the list of permitted business under the proposed zoning classification in the city code, and it was developed at a well attended neighborhood meeting. The "uses" that you list were not in the city code under the zoning classification Harris requested. Any other useful suggestions?

not_dolph 10 years ago

Godot, that is hillarious! Looks like we won't be getting any "furriers." Dang!

Godot 10 years ago

Just wondering why a pet store is considered to be more toxic to a neighborhood than a pool hall or tattoo parlor or smoke shop.

By the way, the ban on the golf driving range in a densely populated neighborhood lacking in open space is really, really funny.

And the farrier ban? Just too much fun.

Godot 10 years ago

"Godot, that is hillarious! Looks like we won't be getting any "furriers." Dang!

ha. typo monster strikes again.

Godot 10 years ago

Actually, the article in the LJW does list "furrier."

Must have been the PETA contingent that put that one in there.

Guess we won't be getting a Saks Fifth Avenue or a Nordstroms in East Lawrence. Dang.

J Good Good 10 years ago

Can you read? We didn't think anyone was wanting to put a furrier or golf driving range in EL, we just went through the WHOLE list, as per what the city asked for from the neighborhood.

A "smoke shop" or "pool hall" as an example, was NOT on the list. Didn't think it was a hard concept to grasp.

Godot 10 years ago

I am sorry, but I'm still in the dark. Did the city provide you with a list of businesses to say yay or nay to, or did they say, "tell us what businesses do you not want in EL?"

Godot 10 years ago

"Commissioners have expressed an interest in using the Neighborhood Revitalization Act as a way to rebate the new property taxes that the project would generate, as long as Harris agrees to use the rebated taxes to pay for the infrastructure improvements."

Developers of new neighborhoods pay for the streets, sewers, sidewalks, parks, etc., themselves, without any rebate based on the generation of new property taxes.

It seems unfair that Harris would be given a tax break for development that completely changes the nature of an existing neighborhood, and that the existing property owners oppose. The impact 54 condos and more retail will have on infrastrucure in that small area will be much greater than any new development of high value homes on 1/3 acre lots in west lawrence.

The City Commissioners are playing the "anything downtown wants, downtown gets" game again.

J Good Good 10 years ago

The city code contains lists of all kinds of businesses that are allowed within each zoning classification. The city asked the neighborhood to go through the list for the proposed zoning and identify those businesses that they felt were inappropriate for this development. The list for the proposed zoning in this case is rather large and wide ranging.

Godot 10 years ago

Thanks, jg. This process seems to be incredibly cumbersome. It does not make sense to me that the city would establish a zoning classification, and then allow a neighborhood to further restrict it, but only within the restrictions set forth by the city.

So, am I to understand that the city's initial zoning classificaiton banned the businesses I named, and that the EL neighbors added more business classifications to ban?

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

This was designed I believe to be a Inner- Neighborhood Commercial Code. An acceptable concept.

Godot 10 years ago

merrill wrote: "This was designed I believe to be a Inner- Neighborhood Commercial Code. An acceptable concept."

and, what does that mean to the rest of us who are not familiar with smart-growth-speak?

lynnd 10 years ago

This area wasn't going to sit there forever undeveloped. We're lucky that Harris is developing it instead of someone else. He's bent over backwards to work with the neighborhood. Probaby any other developer in this town would have just gone in and thrown up crappy apartments or slab duplexes and been out in three months. Harris does quality work and he's making an effort to save existing buildings and have the new ones fit into the area appropriately.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.