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Consultant: Distrust between developers, city, neighborhoods ‘strikingly’ high

Main complaint: Review process takes too long

February 1, 2007


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.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 1 month ago

Hurley also noted that a review committee is usually standard to keep developers on the precise smart code mark. My take is that the developers are looking for a faster approval process. Whether or not they are willing to buy into the strict SmartCode concept remains to be seen. SmartCode likely would not produce the desired results if it is altered in any way such as to suit developers.

So far SmartCode is promoting mixed use neighborhoods throughout Lawrence and downtown investment. However it does have some areas that will need tweaked at the administrative end to prevent a return of runaway development that would likely continue to increase our inflated property taxes. Mixed use neighborhoods make sense so long as the commercial aspects are practical.

We do not need a return of the development community controlling all facets growth planning. They forgot jobs and balanced growth at a slower pace which consequently has produced a higher cost of living and a bedroom community.

Smart Code design concepts are pretty cool but would require a tremendous amount of discipline from the real estate/development industry. Neighborhoods would need to support the concepts as well.The Smart Code team is dedicating a lot hands on hours in our fair city.

Godot 11 years, 1 month ago

Unbelievable. Hire "consultants" that come in with a known agenda; pay them $250,000 to rewrite the development code to fit their agenda, then have them meet with the community to determine how best to overcome objections; then implement the plan by "incentivising" the developers by letting them know if they tow the party line, their plans will be put on the fast track; those who want to do something outside their box are told their plans will be put on the slow train to nowhere.

Alison Smith 11 years, 1 month ago

merrill & godot as contradictory as it sounds you both are absolutely right... if everyone can play by the agreed upon rules then life will be much smoother and things will get done much faster. if we can't agree on the rules then nothing will happen smoothly or quickly. so yes, the consultants are trying to figure out how to best overcome people's objections AND yes, this is going to take a lot of discipline on the part of everyone.

however, americans are time junkies... just the thought of saving time is enough incentive to keep people engaged... how much time is it going to take to wade through all this red tape versus how much time is it going to take to wade through mud & muck just to get to my front door...

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