Archive for Sunday, December 16, 2007

Landowners try to revive business park plan

December 16, 2007


A group of property owners once again wants to open a new business park at the northwestern edge of town.

And, once again, opponents are lining up to quash it.

Steve and Duane Schwada are leading a group seeking permission to develop an industrial park on 155 acres near the Lecompton interchange along the Kansas Turnpike, at the northwestern edge of Lawrence. The site is at the northwest corner of East 900 Road and North 1800 Road, also known as the Farmers Turnpike.

The site would be able to accommodate a single warehouse operation covering up to 600,000 square feet, or perhaps a collection of smaller industrial uses that would not include a truck stop or any of the list of "noxious" uses that might otherwise be allowed in a light-industrial area, Duane Schwada said.

History of rejections

The proposal comes nearly four years after the Schwadas' group made a run at a similar proposal, but was rebuffed twice: first by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, and, ultimately, by the Douglas County Commission.

While the substance of the plan hasn't changed in recent years, Duane Schwada said, the need for it certainly has increased.

"People can do what they need to do, if they think it's in their best interest," he said of the inevitable opposition he is prepared to encounter. "But this is a community requirement. We need jobs. We've been talking about that for eight or 10 years, what we need to do in the future to provide goods and services jobs, for the future.

"But the future never seems to come."

The previous rejection had come in March 2004, and by the slimmest of margins. Because area residents had filed a valid protest petition, the only way the project could have won approval would have been if County Commissioners had voted unanimously to rezone the property from agricultural to light-industrial use.

That didn't happen. While Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney voted to approve the plan, Commissioner Charles Jones - then commission chairman, and still the lone commissioner whose district lies completely within the city of Lawrence - voted against it.

Jones' reasoning at the time: The site simply was too far outside the city limits to support such urban development, especially with it being outside the community's adopted urban growth area.

"I don't think this plan is well conceived," Jones said, back in March 2004.

Resurrected proposal

Now, nearly four years later, the proposal is back. Planning commissioners are scheduled to consider the proposed rezoning during a meeting that begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

The proposed site includes 16 parcels of land with multiple owners. The area generally is agricultural, except for a handful of residences nearby, Heritage Baptist Church to the west and a home occupation for an excavating operation to the north, according to Sandy Day, the city-county planner who analyzed the proposal for commissioners.

Day recommends that planning commissioners once again deny the request because, among other reasons, the site still remains outside the community's established urban growth area. She said she'd already heard from four people opposed to the proposal, including three nearby residents and David Ross, president of the Scenic Riverway Community Association, the same group that led opposition to the rezoning proposal four years ago.

'Invisible line'

But Duane Schwada dismisses the urban growth area as an "invisible line" that fails to account for a concrete (and asphalt) reality: the business park would take access onto the Farmers Turnpike, which leads directly to the South Lawrence Trafficway and the Kansas Turnpike less than 1,000 feet away.

"Any traffic exiting this (park) goes straight into the UGA, straight onto K-10, without going through neighborhoods, without going down other streets that need to be improved, without going through other parts of the community," he said. "You're not going to be able to satisfy everybody, but the community as a whole needs jobs, and it needs locations for those jobs."


Richard Heckler 10 years, 6 months ago

  • Does Lawrence need another space for a polluting chemical plant? No! Taxpayers cannot afford chemical plants of which Farrmland should be a perfect example.

*Allegedly Steve and Duane Schwada are trying to buy up every water meter available for their projects which of course is not acceptable.

*One of the Schwada is allegedly lobbying to be appointed to the water board responsible for approving water meter requests = water board scandal.

*Tax dollars should not be available because light industrial typically are are among the most difficult pieces of property to turn over. Taxpayers cannot afford anymore DCDI/East Hills type of secret operations. Bio-Science will be a local buzz word.

*The Farmland Property has infrastructure in place and taxpayers cannot afford not to use existing resources . Developer desires do not translate into need.

*It is NOT the duty of the taxpayer or local government to maximize profits for speculators.

*The City and County should treat demand for real estate as a scarce commodity.

*The market does not do a good job of pacing the growth of supply with the growth of demand. Developers and builders generate more supply than is needed. This creates vacancies and blight in otherwise good markets. The City and County need to bring discipline to the market, helping to keep the pace of growth in supply in check with the pace of growth in demand.

Keith 10 years, 6 months ago

With their usual attention to detail, the LJW has posted the wrong map in the sidebar. The correct map would show land NOT near the airport.

headdoctor 10 years, 6 months ago

Nice catch on the map, Keith. Perhaps if Lawrence was not so interested in following a plan like horizion 2020 where ultimately a handfull of people decided the direction that Lawrence would be developed. We would not even see this industrial request. Areas like this would have been residential except that Lawrence it seems does not want anything north of I-70. In the vein of Planning I-70 at one time would have made a wonderful buffer zone. The Planning Einsteins missed that oportunity so now deal with controling mismatched sprawl. Is it really because Lawrence does not want to provide a sewer line under I-70? Or are they concerned there is not as much in it for Lawrence School districts? After all a large portion of the property tax from that area would go to Perry-Lecompton Schools and not Lawrence.

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 6 months ago

This is leapfrog development at it's worst. This area has not been identified in Horizon 2020 as one of the potential industrial sites in the county, and it's outside the urban growth area.

"People can do what they need to do, if they think it's in their best interest." Clearly the Schwada's think it's in their best interests to create an industrial park in an agricultural area in an area that has not been identified for industrial development by the city/county planners. It is in the best interest of developers to force industrial development in areas that aren't appropriate for industry.

What is in the best interest of the citizens of Douglas County? I don't think 150 acres of I-2 zoning outside the urban growth area is in the best interest of Douglas County or Lawrence.

I encourage the citizens of Douglas County and Lawrence to call the planning commission, the city commission, and the county commission to voice their opposition to industrial sprawl.

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 6 months ago

"The site would be able to accommodate a single warehouse operation covering up to 600,000 square feet, or perhaps a collection of smaller industrial uses that would not include a truck stop or any of the list of "noxious" uses that might otherwise be allowed in a light-industrial area, Duane Schwada said."

To set the record straight, the Schwada's are applying for I-2, which allows bus repair, and freight truck or terminal transfer. I think the argument could be made that a truck stop is fully allowed under I-2.

I-2 also allows insecticide blending, aluminum extrusion, foundry products, electroplating, and tire retreading & vulcanizing. These all sound fairly noxious to me.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 6 months ago

Also Lawrence citizens need to pay attention to the developers version of SmartCode on the City Commission agenda. It is nothing more than a "Fast Track" approval process hidden behind a "green" sounding process.

This is but one red flag: it allows for any retail project less than 100,000 sq ft to be exempt from any type of economic impact study so the new Wal-Mart came in at more than 99,000 sq ft but less than 100,000 sq ft. This is irresponsible local legislation aka protection for the big box real estate/development community that which promotes ECONOMIC DISPLACEMENT instead of economic growth.

Another red flag is the Consolidated Review Committee which is a new decision making body..... This is another part of the "fast track" process which eliminates scrutiny and much public input.

headdoctor 10 years, 6 months ago

It is admirable Merrill, that you get involved with local politics even if a lot of the posts are cut and paste. Please tell me that you are not getting ready to start another anti-Walmart tirade?

I wonder how many of the anti industrial developement people would change their mind if they thought a Green Company was moving there or if they happened to own a piece of land there that would increase in value?

Horizon 2020 does eventually permit developement in that area. The creaters of the plan expected development there in about 20 years.

hipper_than_hip 10 years, 6 months ago

The creators of Horizon 2020 planned for development south of the Farmer's Turnpike, not on the north side, and certainly not any industrial parks in the northwest quadrant of the city. There is a document called the Northwest Plan that spells out future development in this part of Lawrence.

Check out the maps at this Douglas County planning department link:

Keith 10 years, 6 months ago

At least we're not hearing any early begging for taxpayer assistance, though that may come later on. On first glance, this seems like an ideal spot, far enough out of town, already on the industrial road, and easy access to 2 major highways. Not in the flood plain either.

toefungus 10 years, 6 months ago

Taxpayer money will be the next thing, guaranteed. Extending roads, putting in a light at K-10 junction, extend water waste collection are all going to be needed, not including a TIF request. This is another dream of money in the pockets of developers, but since there are no firm commitments, it is a disaster for Lawrence. Property tax rates will be rising soon to pay for all the commitments we already have. The rise in property values gravy train is over. This project idea should be flushed.

lunacydetector 10 years, 6 months ago

horizon 2020 was outdated the day it rolled off the presses. why is horizon 2020 mentioned anymore? it never accounted for the growth in population of the 1990's.

horizon 2020 should've been a living document that could be changed from time to time - just like some people do with the bible.

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