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Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

City style

March 22, 2007

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To the editor:

I am intrigued by the fact that so many people believe that three new city commissioners will provide "the answer" to all of Lawrence's economic problems.

Me? I see a town that has built way too many apartment complexes - a number of which are not even close to being filled - and way too many buildings that contain no businesses. It seems to me that the last thing we need is a City Commission that is going to advocate building more empty apartment complexes and more empty buildings.

Do we really want a town that has no style or personality because every once-beautiful neighborhood has an apartment building slapped in the middle of the street and every intersection has a shopping district and a Wal-Mart? Or are we really that desperate to look like Olathe?

Deb Taylor,

Lawrence

Comments

KS 7 years, 9 months ago

Deb: I agree we are very long on apartment complexes, but I predict with people living way beyond their means, we will some day be long on empty houses. The amount of foreclosures are increasing each month. At some point in time, these apartment complexes will be filled up with folks that don't have any money. Sounds like global warming, huh? :) Have a nice, warm day.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Rob Chestnut sent out a postcard on job growth comparing Lawrence to Columbia,Mo/Norman,Ok/Shawnee,Ks/Olathe,ks.

What a lot of nonsense. Norman,Shawnee and Olathe are no longer stand alone small cities and have not been for a good many years.

It is doubtful that those cities were managed by a city and planning commission that was run by the real estate/development industry who had no vision or planning experience for at least 20 years running. What Chestnut for to include was a comparison of property taxes which might prove interesting. His data came from an issue of Money Magazine nothing even close to a scientific study.

The Kansas Department of Labor reports that the Lawrence job growth rate is greater than the population growth rate (1.7% compared to 0.6%) for 2000 to 2005. The Kansas Department of Labor also reports tht the average annual wages in Lawrence are 16% below those statewide and 30% below those in Kansas City. This suggests that low wage levels, not job growth rates, are the primary problem with economic developoment.

KsTwister 7 years, 9 months ago

Olathe's population boomed from the 17,000 it had in the 1980's. Considering that Lawrence at the same time was along the "Industrial Corridor" it appears overlooked. Probably because it looks like a heart patient with clogged arteries.

Meatwad 7 years, 9 months ago

Good letter Deb!

I don't see a housing shortage for home buyers OR students. Look at the classified ads.

It seems there are people who want Lawrence to grow, grow, grow and spread out as big as Topeka. Lawrence will never be big enough for some people. Then their real estate and construction industry jobs will flourish and they'll be sitting in their huge homes and counting their money while Lawrence grows and becomes more like Topeka. (Topeka, I heard on the news tonight, has had 14 shootings since January). Some people want Lawrence to have more houses, more apartments, more Wal Marts, more high schools, more Applebees, more McDonalds, more gas stations, more streets, more cars, more growth, more sprawl, more more more.

One said, if there are too many buildings the real estate developers won't build more. I think that they will build as much as we let them, they will build and sell. Then they will count their money from the sale, sitting in their mansions, while their building they built sits vacant and blights Lawrence. There are vacancies all over this town.

Other people, like me, don't want Lawrence to sprawl and grow into a huge metropolis.

Me, I know Lawrence has to grow a bit, but I'm for filling in space, not sprawling. I'm for bringing high paying jobs here, not Walmart and more chain restaurants and chain stores that pay low wages. Those big chains are jackpots for real estate developers. Big national chain stores with deep pockets. Developers LOVE them. Do you know Zona Rosa? Chain Heaven. I know of one independently owned business in there and he told me it was almost IMPOSSIBLE to convince the owners to let him in. They only wanted to let in chains. But somehow he got these millionaires to let him in. God forbid they take a chance on a locally owned restaurant. Sad. I so don't want Lawrence to become Zona Rosa, but that's the way it's heading if we don't pay attention. Some of us keep saying, "if you so desire to have Lawrence sprawl out like Olathe, please move to Olathe and enjoy!" Leave us alone. We aren't going to Aspenate. That is what the developers will tell you. But we're doing just fine.

People have different visions for the future of this town. I just hope the people who share my vision for my town are the ones who vote.

opinion 7 years, 9 months ago

What do you think would happen to housing costs if we limited this growth so many fear? I hear calls for affortable housing by the same posters that call for restricting housing growth.

I guess if I want to be selfish, I should join the bandwagon and call for an end to residential growth. I own my home and I am sure it's value would sky rocket if the supply were restricted. Eventually, only the rich would be able to live in Lawrence.

People want to live here. Houses will be built for them as long as there continues to be buyers. While you can debate what fees to attach to those houses, if city policy disrupts the market demand dynamic, we will see housing prices shoot through the roof.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

"People want to live here. Houses will be built for them as long as there continues to be buyers."

This is likely true.

"While you can debate what fees to attach to those houses, if city policy disrupts the market demand dynamic, we will see housing prices shoot through the roof."

City policy at this point subsidizes the building of new houses, which disrupts the market. Implementing impact fees will restore the market, and lower property taxes.

opinion 7 years, 9 months ago

Tony88,

I know prices have shot up. It is because people are willing to pay the price for them. The demand for homes in Lawrence is (was) there. If the supply were to be limited, that would not change the demand. Prices would go up more. Check the home prices in some of the towns many cite as those that have done a fine job of preserving the small town charm.

"the market needs some correction" ? So what are we to do? Stop housing development to drive the prices lower? Like I said, if you want to tack on fees (developers used to charge "specials") that is one thing, making it harder to build or grow with the demand is another.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

Opinion,

If developers had to pay their share of ongoing costs necessitated by their developments, the costs of their houses would most likely go way up, thus decreasing demand for them.

People can always buy existing houses - we seem to have a number of them on the market now. If people don't want to buy houses that currently exist, then they won't move here.

If the demand for houses is so great, why do we have so many vacant houses for sale around town?

sustainabilitysister 7 years, 9 months ago

I'm skeptical when I see banks endorsing Chestnut and Dever as to whether their best interests would be mine. We need to keep lawrence progressive and unique. Are we basically hiring 2 Doug Comptons to be on city commission where everything will look like a shanty town in 15 years. We need to focus on the future vision of Lawrence and focus on the planning aspect. I drive through Lawrence and see all of the big builders that get all of the bids in town already, endorsing these 2 candidates. I question the majority of Lawrence citizens truly being represented by compton 1 and compton 2.

KsTwister 7 years, 9 months ago

Too late for that, look at all those homes west of Wakarusa as well as every other city border. "Build it and they will come." Although I don't care for this expansion,I do wonder. I think Lawrence build a speed record breaking suburb.

Godot 7 years, 9 months ago

"Slow Architecture is the creation, appreciation, and enjoyment of all that is careful, that is detailed, that is textured and that stimulates the senses, in buildings. Slow architecture 'enslows' our senses, our thoughts, our movements, our actions. It adds to the delight of our lives by deepening our sense of being here, being present and being healthy-through the way the building has been created, is used, and ages."

Yeah, I am sure the folk in New Orleans and along the Mississippi coast, still living in FEMA trailers, will appreciate this concept.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

No one fears additional economic growth. Tons of new construction does not necessarily = net economic growth Over built retail stifles economic growth & net gain in tax revenue Over built residential = negative impact on residential property value Crummy new home construction ultimately = negative impact on residential property values All should fear growth that does not cover the cost of community services for that only brings on higher taxes as we all know by now.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 9 months ago

Job growth Thursday, March 22, 2007

To the editor:

Misinformation blossoms like spring dandelions during election season. Unfortunately, once erroneous ideas take hold, they become very hard to uproot. Let me try.

In recent letters, Deb Passig and Dwayne Peaslee have both suggested that the current City Commission has stymied job growth, among other alleged failings. Some commission candidates have been making the same assertion.

The fact is exactly the opposite. According to the city's partner in economic development efforts, jobs in Lawrence have grown steadily over the last four years when compared to the years immediately preceding them. Let me quote from an article in the most recent (March 2007) Chamber Newsletter, titled, "And the Progress Continues": "The Kansas Department of Labor indicates even stronger economic development performance for the community during 2006. Civilian job growth in Douglas County/ Lawrence has outstripped Topeka, Kansas City, Johnson County and the state's employment growth rate."

Let's review: According to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, under the current City Commission, job growth has shown steady and strong progress and produced a better performance in 2006 than even our famously pro-growth Johnson County neighbors.

Can we agree to pluck this "unfriendly-to-employers" weed and decide the election on the basis of real issues?

David Dunfield,

Lawrence

Jamesaust 7 years, 9 months ago

Wow. This letter writer needs to seek professional psychological help - she's delusional.

"every once-beautiful neighborhood has an apartment building slapped in the middle of the street" If anyone sees this, please call the police and then alert Homeland Security. Seriously. How do you locate an apartment building into the middle of (once-beautiful) neighborhoods?

"every intersection has a shopping district and a Wal-Mart?"

IF ONLY!!! Seriously. There's ONE Wal-Mart. They plan to have TWO some day - maybe before the decade is out. Lady, you're smoking a little too much "weed."

"I see a town that has built way too many apartment complexes"

Okay, first, towns don't build apartment complexes (normally) - real estate developers do. Next, may I suggest that Lawrence has neither more nor less apartment complexes necessary to house apartment complex renters? How do I know this? Because if there were too many apartment compexes then the developers would loose money building them and then would stop building more. Duh!

Seriously. This letter reeks of class snobbery. Clearly, this lady despises those poorer than herself who can't afford to buy housing and resort to renting apartments - no doubt, including most KU students. Is this why she has chosen Spring Break as the time to write her letter? Uh...maybe if the 'no growth' crowd didn't keep driving up the cost of housing via limiting its supply? Ding-Dong!

Enough with the endless anti-developer, richy-rich, hoity-toity attempts to "Aspen-ate" Lawrence. Lawrence is not a themepark or an exclusive, gated-community (although this author seems to fondly wish). "Slow" cities? Yeah, I'd say some of the current Commissioners are especially "slow." That business may play in Santa Monica or Provincetown but Midwesterners are a little too egalitarian for that tripe. Send the "developmentally challenged" packing on election day!

ontheotherhand 7 years, 9 months ago

Knock Knock Knock! Oh Jamesaust: I think you have a bad case of the "I only skimmed the letter so I only read into it what I wanted to read" syndrome.

First, the author writes "Do we really want a town that . . ." Did you ever stop to consider that the author was asking a "futuristic" question? In other words, could she have been possibly stating: Is this (lots of Wal-Marts, too many apts in neighborhoods, etc) what you really want, because it appears that we might be headed that way if we cater too much to developers?

If a person does not want to see apartment complexes thrown in between houses on every street, how is that snobbery? I was driving through Manhattan, KS the other day and I was amazed at how cute little streets I used to love are now filled with 8-plexes and 10-plexes. A lot of the old houses are still there, sprinkled in with the apts. The "awe" factor and the charm in those neighboorhoods is gone, in my opinion. Does that mean I am a snob?

Why is someone a snob for wanting Lawrence to NOT turn into every other suburban-type of town?

If you do not want more buildings to be built because you would prefer to see the vacant ones filled, how does that make you a "No growth" advocate?

Marion, I have no idea what you are referring to. What is the "non-issue" you mentioned?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 years, 9 months ago

Why anyone would want Lawrence to look like Topeka and Olathe is beyond me. 23rd street is a lovely boulevard compared to Santa Fe. The reason so many want to move here is because it isn't like those 2 cities. Then they are depressed because they don't have the chance to shop as much, and want to turn Lawrence into something ugly, then they'll move on to the next nice town and do it again. It's like a destructive nomadic tribe.

ontheotherhand 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't think any university could ever provide cheaper housing than off-campus living. Trust me. The misconception is that Fritzel and Compton provide cheap housing. This is very far from the truth. Four-bedroom apts are close to $1000 per month (if not more than that). With 4 people, $250 is not bad. It's the numerous people living in one apt that makes it cheap.

WWoftheW 7 years, 9 months ago

If you check the Friday home buyers guide you will see the number of homes that sell on the lower scale, under 100,000 and under 200,000 are more than qudruple the number of houses above 250,000 and up. Lawrence has a need for affordable housing and housing stock, but the builders are still building the 80's and 90's bedroom community for expensive housing with golf course views and not for the needs of today.

bugmenot 7 years, 9 months ago

Pilgrim's right; there's plenty of housing. I worked in housing, and no where on campus was anywhere near full to capacity. Students generally stay one year, two at most, before moving into apartments because the apartments are cheap, yes, but still more expensive than university housing. Why do they move off campus, then? You can drink off campus. Their parents are willing to fund their off-campus living. It's more fun to play grown-up and live in an apartment or rented house than to live in the dorms. It has to do more with campus housing being "uncool" than it does with the university not keeping up with demand.

Michael Capra 7 years, 9 months ago

TONY 88 LOVES COMPTON that whats going on would you like a number so you can get together or just give him the secret hand shake

Michael Capra 7 years, 9 months ago

DEB TAYLOR arent you the same deb in the banking world that failed bad and now you spend your time on st pats day once a year

ontheotherhand 7 years, 9 months ago

Or are we really that desperate to look like Olathe?"- Deb Taylor

Well, Deb, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it certainly appears you need to at least try to look like something else than what you are.

Socialism does not work.

======= Right-Wing Thinker, What in the world do any of your comments mean? Look like what? --Just curious.

Jamesaust 7 years, 9 months ago

ontheotherhand - I think you have a terminal case of "development-challenge."

"the author was asking a "futuristic" question?"

If she had asked 'do you want a city where Rastafarians kidnap Christian babies and drink their blood' would anyone say "well...maybe that's a 'futuristic' question"? HUH? Stick to the facts and stop just making b/s up.

"If a person does not want to see apartment complexes thrown in between houses on every street, how is that snobbery?" A. Its not happening B. Lawrence has above-average rental housing because: 1. its a college town with few jobs and little opportunity making home ownership unlikely for most anyone not commuting out of town or sucking up to the taxpayer-funded feeding trough. 2. people like you vote for people like Lefty Commission Kooks who limit the supply of housing and price the poor literally out of house and home. Its a hallmark of left-wing snobbery to adopt policies that puke on the poor and then blame everyone for the poors' plight. (Besides, if you don't like Manhattan's city planning then COMPLAIN TO MANHATTAN!!)

In days, the voters will remove the developmentally challenged from office and we can go back to working on a City for everyone, not just the snobbish rich.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 years, 9 months ago

How is there a shortage of housing? 17 years ago, when I moved here, you needed to be sure to have something rented early, but now I see vacancies all year long. Instead of lowering the rent to attract renters, all the leasing companies offer a month's free rent. If there was more real competition in this town, rents would be forced down.

ilovelucy 7 years, 9 months ago

458casul: you better get your Deb's straight. The Deb you are discussing in your above post is not the Deb who is a banker and community volunteer.

roger_o_thornhill 7 years, 9 months ago

Ah, the reader responses. Proof positive of the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Jamesaust 7 years, 9 months ago

"How is there a shortage of housing?"

There are only two things that make up the price of housing - demand and supply. Perhaps you had noticed at some point that Lawrence has the highest housing costs in the State of Kansas? (Its not because we have prettier sunsets.) Ergo, there is either excessive demand or limited supply. Perhaps, further you had been reading the newspaper about the declining/stagnant population of Lawrence? I believe it is inescapable that its not demand that is pushing Lawrence real estate values but the myriad and sundry ways in which that City restricts availability of supply. And what do diligent readers of LJW find just last month? - construction permits at their lowest level in nine years. Not a "numbers person"? Chat it up with any regional developer and they'll rant about how unfriendly / confused / incompetent / dilatory Lawrence's City bureaucracy is.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

As always, an interesting and controversial topic.

Having lived in the area for about ten years, and looking for a house several times, I can say this:

The policies of build and develop haven't done anything to make houses more affordable. When we first looked, you could get a "dump" for about $40K, then a few years later for about $75K, and now it's hard to find anything much under $100K.

According to my wife and others who have lived here even longer, the current commission is an anomaly - previous commissions have been extremely developer-friendly. Thus the current situation in Lawrence is more likely due to many years of developer friendly policies.

Those who oppose the rush to subsidize more and more development are unfairly characterized above as "Aspen-ites" - nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the people I know who are opposed to the crazed rush to develop are caring, solid folks who would like to see more affordable housing, good jobs, a diverse population, decent public transportation, etc.

It is in fact the developers who would like to see a continuing increase in home prices, and the influx of rich people to buy them.

The market forces of supply and demand should be working better - why are there many vacant apartments and homes for sale? When there are few property owners and built-in tax breaks for them, it interferes with the market. If one can receive a useful set of deductions from vacant property, it reduces the incentive to lower the price.

Given the large amount of vacant retail space, one would think the reasonable outcome would be the lowering of the prices to lease such spaces, the occupation and use of them, and reasonable prices for the goods/services provided.

Instead we seem to have spaces that have been vacant for extremely long periods of time (Tanger/Riverfront Mall), high costs of renting them, new construction with many vacancies as well.

What's going on here? Those who believe in the forces of a free market should be wondering along with me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 9 months ago

I see what you are saying, Hawk, but there seems to be an assumption there that there is no value to the community in education. Would we really be better off if we just did away with the schools, and the expenses that go with them?

Likewise, you imply that market forces have no effect on teachers' salaries. Do you think those salaries could be reduced without meaning that the best teachers we now have wouldn't be tempted to leave the profession in rather large numbers?

Granted, salaries at the administrative level are perhaps too high, but that's true of about all executive-level positions in private business, too. It's just a fact that the ones at the top running things will always value their own contributions considerably above their true value.

Jamesaust 7 years, 9 months ago

jafs - I agree with you that the market should be working better. May I suggest that it does not because the City keeps interfering with it?

Look, the differential in housing prices in Lawrence versus Topeka is now approaching 50%. While I personally think very little of Topeka as a domicile city (yuck), frankly very little of that will explain that differential as there are many great neighborhoods there and more being built every day. (There's even a major redevelopment project in rundown central Topeka underway.) Topeka and Lawrence aren't so far apart as to make commuting a serious issue (closer than Lawrence & JoCo, or KC). Land isn't inherently any more scare here (to drive up prices). Sunsets in Lawrence are no prettier. Are you seriously saying past Commissions in Lawrence were excessively developer-friendly but those in Topeka are even more so? How?

No, I helped a friend do some house-hunting last year. She was divided between Lawrence and Topeka. In that process we saw many identical houses there and here but there was nothing identical in the prices. After materials and labor, which cost the same in both counties, the only remaining cost for a house is the availability of land - literally and abstractly, both the actual plot and the administrative government overhead attached to gaining it and getting it permitted. Might I suggest that its THAT cost that explains most all of the difference in prices?

Jamesaust 7 years, 9 months ago

hawk - I understand the first few sentences of your statement but am confused by the rest. (Bozo may understand you but that probably doesn't speak well to your point).

May I point out that in 90%, maybe 95%, of the incorporated cities in Kansas, government, including schools, make up the #1 employer? (If including #2, its probably 99%) If you went to, say, Smith Center or Greensburg, do you really think that 'government' was not a giant untaxed property owner there?

In turn, may I point out that Lawrence's decision to fight tooth-and-nail against a "cornfield" mall (even if a big-picture good decision) has economic consequences. I happen to know - and you can look it up - that Oak Park Mall for example pays JoCo in excess of $7 million in property taxes every year. I can only guess how much sales tax is generated there. And that's ignoring the economic stimulus from next-door development all around it. Gee, what might Douglas Co. do with an additional $7m each year in property tax?

Your theory is that there's a unique problem in Lawrence but then you point to evidence that is virtually universal. Its like saying there's an excess of potholes in Lawrence and that is being caused because Lawrence vehicles have round tires.

JohnBrown 7 years, 9 months ago

WHY IS DUNFIELDS LETTER TO THE EDITOR MISSING? Here it is:

Job growth Thursday, March 22, 2007

To the editor:

Misinformation blossoms like spring dandelions during election season. Unfortunately, once erroneous ideas take hold, they become very hard to uproot. Let me try.

In recent letters, Deb Passig and Dwayne Peaslee have both suggested that the current City Commission has stymied job growth, among other alleged failings. Some commission candidates have been making the same assertion.

The fact is exactly the opposite. According to the city's partner in economic development efforts, jobs in Lawrence have grown steadily over the last four years when compared to the years immediately preceding them. Let me quote from an article in the most recent (March 2007) Chamber Newsletter, titled, "And the Progress Continues": "The Kansas Department of Labor indicates even stronger economic development performance for the community during 2006. Civilian job growth in Douglas County/ Lawrence has outstripped Topeka, Kansas City, Johnson County and the state's employment growth rate."

Let's review: According to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, under the current City Commission, job growth has shown steady and strong progress and produced a better performance in 2006 than even our famously pro-growth Johnson County neighbors.

Can we agree to pluck this "unfriendly-to-employers" weed and decide the election on the basis of real issues?

David Dunfield,

Lawrence

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