The level of distrust between developers, city officials and neighborhoods is "strikingly" high in Lawrence, a city-hired consultant told commissioners this morning.
Jennifer Hurley - facilitator for the PlaceMakers consulting team that is conducting a week-long planning session for the city - also told city commissioners and planning commissioners that she had never seen a community where developers are more upset with the amount of time it takes to have projects approved.
"I have never been in a community where I have heard such consistent complaints about the development review process," Hurley said. "When we came here and had a full day of meetings, we heard word-for-word the same complaints: We don't know what to do, we don't know what the City Commission wants, and it takes forever to get anything approved."
The process has resulted in a serious level of uncertainty from everyone involved in the development process, Hurley said.
"The depth of the trust problem is really striking here," Hurley said. "It is more than in most communities."
PlaceMakers has brought a team of 16 consultants to Lawrence to study how the city could adopt a new development code that would promote Traditional Neighborhood Design, a concept that focuses on creating neighborhoods in a more "old-style" way.
Consultants told commissioners at a meeting this morning that any new code that is created should have an incentive process that would grant developers a more expedited review process that cut down on the amount of time spent before the Planning Commission and the City Commission. Instead much of the review would come at the staff level. The expedited review would be an incentive to get developers to try the Traditional Neighborhood Design concept, which focuses on mixing different types of development and emphasizing pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods.
"It would require a lot more upfront work, but a lot less public meeting time," said Nathan Norris, a consultant on the team.
The idea was met with skepticism by some commissioners.
"I don't understand how the neighbors would have any idea what the plan for a development was, if this is a fairly fast-track process," City Commissioner David Schauner said.
The consultants are in town through Tuesday, when they will deliver a draft code to city commissioners at their 6:35 p.m. meeting at City Hall. The consultants will be meeting with members of the public on a one-on-one basis from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. beginning today and running through Sunday in the Naismith Room of SpringHill Suites by Marriott, 1 Riverfront Plaza.