Douglas County commissioners Wednesday night expressed their willingness to explore lease or conveyance options for residential use of land the county owns in the 1100 block of Rhode Island.
Commissioners said they would work with a partnership of organizations interested in making affordable and accessible housing available on that land. The East Lawrence Neighborhood Assn. also favors a residential option and has been working with organizations to present proposals to the county.
"Everybody in the neighborhood agrees on what should be done," association president Janet Good said. "That is a rarity."
Organizations interested in making residential use of the property are Lawrence Land Trust, Accessible Residential Opportunities, Lawrence Preservation Alliance and the Lawrence Housing Authority.
The county will have to decide what to do about a vacant house that sits on part of the property. The land covers two to three lots.
Commissioners Bob Johnson, Charles Jones and Jere McElhaney, however, said the length of a lease would be a factor, noting that they wanted the county to have the option of using the land for a different purpose years later. County Administrator Craig Weinaug was directed to work with the organizations to come up with a more definite proposal.
At the same time, Jones said he wanted a committee established to look into options to improve parking availability for patrons and employees of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St. Included would be a study of improved security measures for certain employees such as probation officers.
Michelle Roberts, court services officer with the probation department, had requested that the Rhode Island property be turned into a parking lot. Because parking space around the law enforcement center on many days is scarce, probation officers, who often receive threats, sometimes park on nearby neighborhood streets. During certain times of the year they must walk to their vehicles in darkness or under poor lighting, she said.