Tuesday's election results ensured there will be a changing of the guard at City Hall next week.
What's uncertain is whether there will be a change of heart regarding City Commission opposition to a proposed Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
Several city leaders made comments on the heels of Tuesday's election results that indicated settlement talks with Wal-Mart are a possibility. Wal-Mart and property owners of the site are suing the city over the city's denial of building permits for the project. The trial is scheduled to begin April 16.
"I don't know where we're headed on that issue, frankly," said City Commissioner Sue Hack. "I know I would rather not head to trial on it."
The question of starting settlement talks is an open one because the new City Commission - which takes office Tuesday evening - will be without two of the three commissioners who voted against a settlement plan in October. Commissioner David Schauner was voted off the City Commission, and Commissioner Mike Rundle did not seek re-election. That leaves only Commissioner Boog Highberger, who won a second term Tuesday by finishing in third place.
Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut will replace Schauner and Rundle. Neither Dever nor Chestnut has said they specifically support the Wal-Mart project, but both have expressed concerns about the amount of money the lawsuit could cost the city.
"If we can avoid spending more money on litigation, and still do what is best for the city, I'm interested in considering it," Dever said of a plan that would avoid a trial.
Chestnut did not go quite as far Wednesday. He said he thought it was unlikely a settlement could be reached before the trial date and was noncommittal on whether he would be open to the possibility. He said he needed to be briefed by city attorneys before he felt comfortable discussing the case.
Mayor Mike Amyx - who along with Hack voted to approve the project brought forward by Wal-Mart in October - said he didn't think it was too late to settle the case.
"I believe we should always be open to settle matters," Amyx said.
The bigger question may be whether Wal-Mart and the developers are willing to enter into settlement talks. Bill Newsome - a member of the property's ownership group - took a hard-ball approach to the idea of a settlement when reached Wednesday.
"We have thought about nothing other than a trial," Newsome said.
When asked whether he had any plans to broach the subject of a settlement with the new City Commission, he said: "My plans are to be in District Court on April 16. Those are as far as my plans go."
Todd Thompson, a Lawrence attorney for Wal-Mart, said he didn't know if his clients had an interest in discussing the project with the new City Commission.
"It is something I'll be asking them," Thompson said.
Attempts to reach Angie Stoner, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, were unsuccessful Wednesday.
The plan that city commissioners turned down in October would have allowed for a 99,840-square-foot Wal-Mart store at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. After commissioners rejected that plan, Wal-Mart and the developers filed a lawsuit with Douglas County District Court that would allow for a 132,000-square-foot Wal-Mart store at the corner.
Several neighbors have vehemently opposed the project because they said it would add to traffic problems in the area. Commissioners also had expressed concern that the project would allow more retail development than the city had planned at the intersection.