Archive for Saturday, November 18, 2006

Area around airport also may see development

November 18, 2006


The former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant isn't the only industrial project in town surrounded by questions.

The other prime industrial/business park area that economic development leaders have their eye on - the area surrounding the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Lawrence - now is being questioned by planning commissioners.

"The conversation has been whether that site is really financially feasible, and I believe our general inclination is that it is not," said Planning Commissioner John Haase.

At a planning commission study session last week, commissioners directed staff to reduce the amount of industrial space that is shown around the airport on a key land use map that will be used to plan for new streets in the city.

Haase said he raised concerns about the area because he thinks major stormwater drainage improvements will have to be constructed in North Lawrence before new industrial projects can be undertaken. Otherwise, the new development will worsen flooding problems in North Lawrence, he said.

A North Lawrence drainage study conducted by the city determined there are about $40 million worth of drainage projects that need to be done in North Lawrence. Mayor Mike Amyx, though, said it would be a mistake to believe that all the projects must be completed before any new growth can happen in the area.

"We don't have to say no just because those improvements aren't in place right now," Amyx said.

Amyx said the area around the airport is important because it provides easy access to Interstate 70, which many industrial businesses have said is desirable.

Economic development leaders have pushed for the site as well. The airport area and the Farmland site were identified as the top two areas for future economic development by the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Board. The board has set a goal of bringing about 1,000 acres of industrial ground online within the next five to six years.

Mike Maddox, chairman of the board, said the community lacks large lots of 100 acres or more to offer to companies that could bring jobs to the city.

"If there is a larger industrial opportunity looking at the community, we really don't have a very good place to put that opportunity," Maddox said. "That's kind of the crux of the problem."

Maddox said the area around the airport potentially could provide around 500 acres of industrial development.

Haase said that he was concerned that the area might be too expensive to provide sewer service to, in addition to his drainage concerns. He's once again pushing for the southeast area, a little more than 600 acres east and south of Kansas Highway 10 and O'Connell Road, to largely be developed into a business park area.

Economic development leaders, though, say that does nothing to provide the community with land that has easy access to I-70. But Haase said the property would fill that need if the community were able to get a state commitment for an eastern bypass project that would go from Noria Road to I-70. That project would require a new multimillion-dollar Kansas River bridge. It likely would face stiff competition for state funding from Johnson County interests who may want a Kansas River bridge to tie in more directly with the massive redevelopment of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near De Soto.

Because planning commissioners were meeting in a study session format, no vote actually was taken on the idea to reduce the area around the airport. Planning commissioners are expected to take that subject up at one of their two December meetings Dec. 18 or Dec. 20.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

I'm curious, TRUTHLAWRENCE-- how come your all caps key didn't work when you were entering your user name?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

they should fix the stormdrainage problems no matter what I am sure the people over the bridge would say thankyou and please. Yes we have an airport why don't they look at making the airport bigger not jumbo jet bigger but bigger?

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

Better yet demo a large portion of the Tanger Mall and put a COSTCO with a grocery store for our North Lawrence brothers and sisters.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

If merrill can get COSTCO to build anywhere in Lawrence I'll let you date either my teen aged son or daughter depending upon your sexual orientation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

I don't necessarily disagree with you, RC, but why doesn't your list include the $40 million in storm sewer upgrades that would be required before any extensive development can take place in this flood plain?

suesay 11 years, 5 months ago

"Better yet demo a large portion of the Tanger Mall and put a COSTCO with a grocery store for our North Lawrence brothers and sisters"

Great idea! Or at least find SOMETHING to do with that space...

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

I think the figure of $40 million for storm sewers and drainage (not sanitary sewage) was for ALL of North Lawrence not just for the area around the current airport. Wasn't there a major upgrade to North Lawrence drainage in the mid 90's (yes 1990's) right after the flood where the railroad bridge crosses by Johnny's?

No grocery, or other retail operation, is likely for North Lawrence when access to the vast majority of Lawrence residents is restricted by the bridge at 6th Street. Although I am sure the PLC grocers will be willing to move The Merc from 9th and Iowa out of a sense of community spirit!

snowWI 11 years, 5 months ago

I believe that KU owns some of the land that is north of the Lawrence Municipal Airport. The area near the airport is some of the lowest elevated land in the county at around 800ft. However, $40 million is a lot of money to add the necessary infrastructure for sewers and drainage.

compmd 11 years, 5 months ago

As someone who is frequently at the Lawrence Airport, works there on occasion, and flies out of there, I have a few thoughts.

1) The roads surrounding the airport are mostly gravel. From 24-40 up North 7th Street (its Douglas County 9 to the south of 24-40) the road is recently resurfaced chip coat. However, beyond the turn off to the KU Hangars/Alligator/LifeStar/etc. its not so great. The east-west road to the north of the airport is a gravel road as well.

2) Does the city plan to enlarge the roads around the airport? How are they going to go about that? Are they going to annex land or exercise eminent domain?

3) Where are the developers thinking of building? Are they going to stay away from the approach to runway 33? There's a lot of ILS equipment around there...

4) Is the increased development expected to increase air traffic at the airport? If so, is the city prepared to enlarge the airport facilities? Would a larger tarmac be built? What about the FBO?

The city should worry about putting stuff in that decrepit mall in North Lawrence instead of spending millions on new infrastructure and utilities to put up something new. I wish I would have known about this before reading about it in the LJW.

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