Archive for Wednesday, November 8, 2006

City Commission defers retail vote

Highberger, Rundle, Schauner want six months to study development issue

November 8, 2006


Get ready for a whole lot of retail wrangling.

The next six months should determine whether Lawrence residents will have new shopping centers to patronize or whether the city will be closed - at least temporarily - to significant new retail developments.

City commissioners Tuesday night refused to give approval to the largest shopping center currently being proposed for the city - which would have been at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Instead, commissioners said they need to take up to six months to try to answer one basic question: Can Lawrence support more retail development?

"Maybe it is naive of me to think that we can really resolve this issue, but I sure want to try," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said.

Highberger was the key vote in deferring a development request for 184,600 square feet of new retail space at the intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The project - proposed by longtime Lawrence developer Duane Schwada and members of the Fritzel family - had already been approved by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on a 9-1 vote and had received a positive recommendation from the city's planning staff.

City commissioners, though, couldn't pull the trigger on the deal. A trio of commissioners - Highberger, Mike Rundle and David Schauner - were swayed by comments from Kirk McClure, an associate professor in urban planning at Kansas University. McClure said his studies indicate Lawrence is adding too much retail, too quickly. He said Lawrence retail sales were growing at a rate of 1.6 percent per year but retail space was growing at about a 4.1 percent rate.

"Simply put, this plan is not beneficial to the community," McClure said. "It is too much space and it is too soon."

McClure argued that the new space would attract new tenants, but that it would come at the expense of other retail areas in town.

Representatives for the developers, though, strongly disputed McClure's analysis. Jane Eldredge, a Lawrence attorney representing the developers, pointed to a study conducted by a City Commission-hired consultant. That 2005 study indicated the city could easily absorb the new retail space.

The trio of commissioners, however, said they weren't convinced that their consultant had done a proper analysis of all the data and perhaps had not factored in that the average income in Lawrence is lower than in other Kansas cities.

All three commissioners said they believed the question that needs to be answered in the next six months is not whether the city will have new retail developments, but when they will be needed. Highberger said if the city's analysis shows that the city currently is well-served by the existing retail options, he wants estimates on when new retail space will need to be added.

The timing of the city study could prove to be interesting. If it takes the full six months to complete, that will put its completion date just one month after the April City Commission elections. Highberger, Rundle and Schauner are all up for re-election. Highberger said he would like to have the study done before the elections.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to delay action on the project, but Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Sue Hack made it clear that they would have approved the project if they could have found one more vote on the commission.

Amyx called the project a "gorgeous" gateway to the community. He also expressed frustration that the City Commission could not figure out how to approve a plan that had received such positive recommendations from planners.

"We have asked these people to go the extra mile, and they have done that," Amyx said.

Commissioners delayed any decision on improvements to George Williams Way, which were related to the project.


oldgoof 11 years, 5 months ago

Kill the caps and try complete sentences, Truthlawrence.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

What's the answer? Locally we want representative government that will keep property taxes in check yet provide economic growth without promoting expensive retail or residential sprawl and unplanned growth. The focus IMO should be on hundreds of excellent jobs with like pay packages. Retail will not provide that aspect for the community.

It is neither the job of citizen/taxpayers nor of city or county governments to guarantee the success of land speculators. Land speculators have but one goal in mind and it's not practical city planning or growth. Let them be what they are...gamblers.

Vacant land cost city/county taxpayers nothing. Once development commences the cost of community services to taxpayers inches upwards.

Where is the retail impact study regarding this project? Where is the overall economic impact study regarding this project? Traffic Impact Study?

geppetto 11 years, 5 months ago

What is up with the city officials? I am opposed to the new development there. Is it harder to rebuild the old i-70 outlet mall? However, I wish the city officials would make a hard decision and stop hiding under the table. Make a decision already!


cutny 11 years, 5 months ago

oh Morion, once again, your ominous voice of doom falls on deaf ears. You got that stable of followers ready to go at your beck and call, yet? How's that PAC coming? Any day now right?

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Where is the retail impact study regarding this specific project? Where is the overall economic impact study regarding this specific project? * Traffic Impact Study for this specific project?

Did the planning commission or planning department have the above prudent information before making a decision?

ALL city commissioners should desire this data before any decisions are made. Simply because they like the looks of a project is not a sound approach to approval. That large "new urbanism" project is already on the table for construction for that area not to mention Wal-mart still on the table for discussion. Shoppers are not going to come from any major shopping market to support our retail market. What they don't have is the charm of our downtown.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

A general study is not the answer. Taxpayers/citizens need studies that are specific to a project in question. Not only that since that general study the " new urbanism" project received approval. The Harris east lawrence project is also underway. The Tanger mall is still not producing badly needed revenue for the city. North Lawrence has vacancies galore and no grocery store.

conservative 11 years, 5 months ago


The point of a new retail area isn't so much to create new jobs (although it will). It is to keep that money being spent in Douglas County.

There is a very large portion of this city that spends a lot of money in Kansas City and Topeka because of the lack of retail selection in Lawrence.

Before you bring out the tired argument about how much it costs to go to KC and Topeka, remember how many of us are there for jobs, or in my case to visit relatives. Since we're there already we go to department stores of our choice instead of the few that have been allowed in Lawrence.

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 5 months ago

Vote for me in April. My platform is multifaceted, but here are a few highlights:

  1. Do whatever it takes to free up I-70 from LeCompton Interchange to E. Lawrence Exit. We pay a far greater percent per mile for driving between Lawrence Exits than those passing through. If we were charged at the same scale as those driving from the Eastern terminal to the South terminal, we'd pay seven cents. $0.07! Either that or the folks passing through would have to pay $50. It doesn't sound like much, but it keeps me off the quickest route from E-W Lawrence. If there's one thing I've noticed about development from growing up in the Dallas area is that these big highways are essential. Who wants to spend 20 minutes driving 6 miles through this town when they could go on the highway at 70 mph and make it in 8-9 minutes?

  2. Work on tourist aspects of this town. How many of you have friends out of town who (at least used to) talk about how they love coming to Lawrence. Any time this town is mentioned on Walt Bodine's show whoever is on usually says something about liking coming to town. Touristy things are the things they can't get closer to home. If your friends are over 30, they probably aren't so drawn because of downtown. Not in any serious way at any rate. As far as development, why is the lake just kind of out there @ the end of Clinton Pkwy? That little convenience store/bait shop or whatever it is is it. I'm not talking about retail so much as whatever you call resort type stuff. I guess the Corps of Engineers would be involved, but I think a lodge style place out with views of lake would be a winner. Make more of resort out of lake while trying to promote smarter ways of doing whatever it is people do at lakes. I know I hardly go out there, and I live pretty close. Isn't there some kind of eatery out there? I digress.

  3. Try to pass deposit law on all beer/liqour bottles to help pay to clean up broken bottles.

  4. Make sidewalks part of parks dept.

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 5 months ago

  1. Return to district elections rather than obnoxious "at large" way of doing things. The only socialists you have to worry about these days still enjoy a pretty cushy lifestyle. (Socialist fears being reason for change back in the '20s or '30s or whenever)

  2. Make river into attraction. Invest in bike trails with eye on attracting competetive televised events.

  3. Court Chinese and Indian automakers. They're coming soon anyways, and they will find out that they have to do business like the Japanese and Koreans do. Lots of college dropouts in town looking for a trade. Look into bringing so-called "green" industry to town. Figure out ways of developing these type things here in town/county.

  4. Work at reconnecting Lawrence with Topeka and Kansas City via the rails. I know they are busy, but you used to be able to do it right? Not at 5am or 11pm or whatever Amtrak is. Not at $26/each way either. Rails and car/bike clubs. Members "check out" cars, mopeds, etc... when in town.

  5. Make Lenin's birthday manditory city holiday.

Sorry I realized my anticipation of power was already going to my head, and alls I was doing was writing out my platform (manifesto?).

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

"Posted by conservative (anonymous) on November 8, 2006 Merrill,

The point of a new retail area isn't so much to create new jobs (although it will). It is to keep that money being spent in Douglas County.

There is a very large portion of this city that spends a lot of money in Kansas City and Topeka because of the lack of retail selection in Lawrence."

It's the number of retail dollars available in a market that dictate not convenience. If there are not enough retail dollars to support all the retail centers they will only fade away. New construction increases the cost of community services. If and/or when retail establishments fade away or do not generate projected revenue to support the additional community services then the expense falls back on the homeowners in the form of tax increases. Sprawl growth is very expensive as it puts heavy revenue demands on community services.

It would seem to me if taxpaying citizens would put as much effort into demanding new high dollar jobs as is put into concerns over shopping perhaps the jobs would begin to appear. These jobs in and of themselves would create new economic growth with or without new retail.

FYI: Duane Schawada spends a good deal of time living in Florida so I'm told.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

A grocery store in the Tanger Mall would have been a good anchor. Perhaps the neighborhood association could consider contacting Krogers or HyVee.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

thornhill your #6 will only work if you get rid of the mountain lions.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Plenty of tourists come to town for football,basketball and the bike races do pretty well. KU parents days bring tourists to town as well. Perhaps Lawrence could focus on a Junior College and a VoTech Campus. Students are good for business and create teaching positions. Yep education is good for business.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

hey merrill that sounds like a plan, but you are talking lawrence so......... maybe by the time my grandkids have kids.

opinion 11 years, 5 months ago


"Perhaps Lawrence could focus on a Junior College and a VoTech Campus"

I like that idea but wouldn't that tie up more ground with "non-taxed" buildings? I also like the idea of a a grocery store out at Tanger but not sure enough people are in the area to support it.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

I know several people that live out that way and they would love a grocery store, they hate having to drive all the way to the nearest because the nearest is not all that close, does that mkae any sense? oh well at least I know what I am trying to say this is good. :)

KsTwister 11 years, 5 months ago

Can someone tell me why there is a "Future home of Lawrence Library West" on a couple acres on Wakarusa? I thought $70 mil was not yet agreed to?

bankboy119 11 years, 5 months ago

Merril, give up on the Tanger Mall already. Who wants to go to North Lawrence besides the people already there? Just because you think it would be nice to help the people there doesn't mean the dollars are there to do it. You are then forcing the businesses to go where YOU think they should be, not where it would be most profitable. The purpose of business is to make a profit AND help the community. They can't help the community without making a profit.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Meanwhile from Montana:

Marijuana initiative passes Posted on Nov. 8 By Tristan Scott of the Missoulian

A ballot measure recommending Missoula County law enforcement officials make adult marijuana offenses their lowest priority passed Tuesday night.

The measure, dubbed Initiative 2, won the support of 22,502 Missoula voters, or 53 percent. Opponents of the initiative totaled 19,565, or 46 percent, and included some of Missoula County's top law enforcement officials.

The initiative will make marijuana crimes the single lowest priority for Missoula County authorities, but won't include marijuana sales or drug use by minors as low-priority offenses.

In no way will Tuesday's passage of Initiative 2 legalize the drug, according to Angela Goodhope, a spokeswoman with Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy, the group that proposed the measure and landed it on the ballot.

Proponents of the initiative, sponsored by Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy, say Initiative 2 strives to place increased emphasis on crimes that threaten people's lives and property and on other, more pressing drug issues. The proposal calls for a Community Oversight Committee that would consist of community members, criminal defense attorneys and a drug rehabilitation counselor who would investigate marijuana arrests and produce a report on the initiative's effects seven months after its passage.

"We are very pleased that Missoula voters approved a clearer, safer and smarter crime policy," Goodhope said.

Police Chief Rusty Wickman and Sheriff Mike McMeekin have publicly voiced their concern about the initiative, saying they worry federal dollars could be yanked from Missoula's drug enforcement programs in retaliation to the measure.

Goodhope said all evidence suggested the contrary, pointing to Seattle's passage of a similar measure several years ago as evidence.

In Missoula, like Seattle, the measure strives to place increased emphasis on crimes that threaten people's lives and property and on other, more pressing drug issues.

"None of the negative outcomes our opponents predicted will come true," Goodhope said. "We know that for a fact."

Stephen Roberts 11 years, 5 months ago

I guess I must I don't understand. The Planning Commission ok's the development but the the City Commission doesn't?

They had a study but they thought the study didn't look at the information?

Is it just me but are they spending too much time on Boog's porch smoking his front lawn?

I am really getting tired of the commission being "dicktated" by three members of agroup who were elected at large. Yes they were elected. Bush bashers complain about Bush, I would like to complian about the three amigos.

Rundle- the manager at the Merc wants to get into every town's business. Maybe he should go back to packing fudge.

Schauner just seems to be a bitter old guy. Maybe he needs some happy blue pills- Valium or Viagra take your pick.

Boog- well the nickname says it all but I would rather call him "Bong".

I would rather have districts in lawrence for both the school baord and commission instead of voting at large. People would say voting at large makes you campaign acroos Lawrence- I have never seen any of our current elected officials ot their volunteers near my house, with the execption of two- Anthony Brown and Jere McElhaney.

having districts will limit these groups of ramrodding or stopping progress. It would also make the commission and the school board have to compromise- something there are not used to doing.

pelliott 11 years, 5 months ago

Hey, I like the idea of a grocery store in the Tanger Mall. there are a lot of people in that area and beyond. You would even get them off the turnpike. It doesn't make much sense to have the little dillons on 6 and Wak.
Naming calling and slurs seem to be the main mental activity of some. I guess they no longer need to pretend to be sober, just low and creepy. sad. I think the election showed that kansas want more than negative ads, big pac money and sell out politicians. We want someone who takes the time and figures out better ways of doing things. I don't like my tax base given away to the developers, especially if it ruins this town. I am not against development but look, do I want pay out the nose for it with my money and all services to go to help support some developers sales. honestly, I don't . Do I want to shop in lawrence, work in lawrence, yes. Show me that it would help those efforts. I don't want to support developments that end up leaving stores empty, and costs of maintanence of underutilized infrastructure falling heavier and heavier on homeowners.

pelliott 11 years, 5 months ago

Oh yeah, I like the idea of lakeside resort at Clinton, should of been done years ago. Maybe a state park lodge like the run in Oklahoma. heck we use the lake like it was 1950, it is lovely out there. I'd love to hear a plan for a riverside attraction. Other cities have done it. Lawrence has history, shopping, interesting culture. PR it doesn't have, hell the state of Kansas strategy is to come up with a slogan so stupid people can remember it. Lawrence is wonderful to visit, a little packaging would make the river and the history more visable, and a cool place to have family reunions and dinner by the lake makes a lot more sense than unlimited access to redundant stores that sell redundant objects, same in each town. You can go to the different stores and see the same object, one store after another. Retail development without consideration for the character and vitality of the town is retail hell.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 5 months ago

I heard that shopping center was going to have a Florsheim, a Liz Claiborne store and a Levi's outlet. Now I have to keep driving all over the Midwest to go shopping in these stores??? Ridiculous.


Seriously, how about a living wage for big employers who are subsidized by our tax dollars? Then we could afford to shop in the stores that open.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 5 months ago

I think we are really lucky to have a city commission that considers planning based on its merits, rather than just taking money and favors from developers and giving all their projects the green light.

lynnd 11 years, 5 months ago

I don't have an opinion on this particular development, because I don't know much about it....but I am bothered by the trend of the city commission to consistently keep voting against things that have been approved by the planning commission.

What is the point of the planning commission if the city commission doesn't pay any attention to them? Aren't they supposed to be more of the experts in planning than the city commissioners? Maybe I just don't understand....but it seems that the commissioners should be paying a little more attention to the planning commission's recommendations instead of denying everything that even hints at development.

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