Archive for Sunday, April 13, 2008

Commission to consider annexation that would allow new business park

Property within view of I-70

April 13, 2008


City leaders must decide on business park land

Lawrence City Commissioners soon will have to decide how aggressive they want to get in adding new business park land to the city. Enlarge video

It is an age old story: a battle over a hill.

And like many hills that cause men to spar, this one is well situated. This hill is nearly 155 acres of pasture ground just north of the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike.

For a local development group, the ground may be just what Lawrence needs right now - a place to aggressively market to distribution centers and light manufacturers that could bring new jobs to the community.

"It is 960 feet to the interstate. That's all the distance a truck would have to travel," said Steve Schwada - who along with his father, Duane Schwada, is a key member of the development group. "You can't find that type of direct access to the interstate anywhere else in Lawrence. It is tough to find in any city."

But to neighbors - primarily owners of large, rural, estate-like homes - the property is best described as land in waiting. Many know its long-term future isn't to grow grass and fatten cattle, but they say the fact it is still two miles outside the current city limits of Lawrence means it isn't suited for industrial development today.

"We're not obstructionists," said Dave Ross, who owns 50 acres just northeast of the site and is the president of the local neighborhood group. "But it sure seems like this is being rushed. We don't have the planning in place to make sure it becomes something we can be proud of."

City commissioners will plant themselves firmly in the debate at their weekly meeting Tuesday. Commissioners are being asked to annex the 154.9 acres on the northwest corner of North 1800 Road and East 900 Road into the city limits. The annexation is the first step that would allow the property to be redeveloped into a business park. Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Sense of urgency

Schwada said he's not trying to rush the project. It has been in the works for more than four years. In 2004, developers tried to get Douglas County commissioners to rezone the property to allow for a county business park. That effort was narrowly defeated after neighbors filed a valid protest petition opposing the project.

But Schwada said now is not the time for the community to delay the project. He said economic development leaders have said repeatedly that the community is lacking large industrial sites. Schwada's site would become the largest parcel of ground that local economic development leaders have to market to new businesses.

"There should be a sense of urgency," Schwada said. "The chamber tells us, and experiences in other communities have shown us that industrial users don't take a lot of time to deal with a community unless there are sites available that day. They don't wait around for a community to develop a site."

Landmark location

Ross isn't denying that this 155-acre piece of property is well-situated. But that's why he and many of his neighbors are arguing that local leaders ought to take their time in allowing the property to develop.

"This site is going to be visible to everybody who drives by on I-70, and for a lot of them this will be the main image they have of Lawrence," Ross said. "I drive by lots of communities on the interstate and see what has been built and think 'what an ugly community.' I don't want that to happen here."

Ross said he's concerned that there's been no area plan created by Lawrence-Douglas County planners to show how an industrial park could fit into the area. He's also concerned that there aren't more details available about the specific type of development the group is seeking.

"I feel like he's really asking for a blank check," Ross said.

Schwada said that is not so, but he concedes he can't provide specific types of businesses. He said the site would be marketed to industries that need easy access to major roadways. In addition to being adjacent to the interstate, the site also is right off the South Lawrence Trafficway - which if completed would provide a more direct route into southern Johnson County.

And Schwada said despite assertions by Ross and others, the development group is not interested in putting a truck stop on the site. He does, however, want to leave open the possibility of a convenience store - and yes, it might sell diesel fuel.

"But that is a lot different than a truck stop," Schwada said. "We're not going to attempt to put a truck stop out there."

Water worries

Another use that isn't likely - at least not in the near future - is any industrial project that would require lots of water. The development group is not requesting the city to extend either city water or city sewer service to the site. And since the property is being voluntarily annexed, the city isn't required to do so.

Theoretically, the property could be served by a lagoon, septic system or other similar rural sewage system as long as the user didn't produce large amounts of waste. Distribution centers, for example, may only have restrooms and breakrooms that would require sewer service.

But water is shaping up to be a larger issue. Most industrial buildings in the city would require a fire sprinkler system. But Scott McCullough said there would be ways to accommodate fire sprinkler systems through small water tower-like devices or other storage systems.

The project, though, is facing opposition from the leader of the rural water district that serves the area. Donald Fuston, chairman of RWD No. 6, has told city planners that his district is not equipped to handle an industrial user. He has said the consequences could be dire.

"Water consumption in excess of 2 million gallons of water per year would require RWD No. 6 to ration water to 300 plus water customers and the industrial site," Fuston wrote in a letter to planners.

Schwada hasn't been specific in how the developers would address the water issue. He said such specifics would come once specific development plans are proposed for the property.

"We think there are users out there who can survive on what is available today," Schwada said.

City interested

The site has captured the attention of city leaders, who have repeatedly said that improving the city's economic development efforts is a top priority.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission has voted to recommend approval of the annexation by a vote of 6-2. The city's planning staff, however, did not go that far. Planning staff members said the annexation request shouldn't be heard until a sector plan that reviews 4,000 acres of property around the site is completed. That likely would take until at least this summer.

But importantly, the site has fans on the top floor of City Hall. City Manager David Corliss said the location - just one of three interchange sites Lawrence has on the turnpike - offers strong economic development opportunities.

"Given the nature of how northeast Kansas is developing, having the ability to have jobs located next to that intersection makes a lot of sense," Corliss said.

Corliss also said he likes the fact that the developer isn't requesting any financial assistance from the city to make the site ready to be marketed as an industrial park. That's not the case with two other proposed industrial sites that the city is considering. One is a site near the Lawrence Municipal Airport that would require city money to extend water and sewer service to the site. The other site is the former Farmland Industries property that the city is interested in purchasing, but likely would have to spend millions to make ready for development.

"When you look at this site," Corliss said, "it is right next to one of the busiest roads in the Midwest, it has access to a good transportation network, and it does not have some of the concerns that we're seeing in other areas."


Jeff Goodrick 9 years, 11 months ago

I would like to see it stay in Lecompton township. We can need the tax money. The township can't handle more tax lost and still stay afloat. Lawrence just keep chipping away and soon taxes will go up in the township just to make ends meet.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

ross if the buildings were pink would that help you,kudos to corliss he sees the vison,to bad planning staff has there heads stuck in the sand

Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

Where is proof of demand ? The Chamber of Commerce stated it could not prove there is a need at a recent City Commission meeting. Absolute proof of demand. There is an over abundance of competition in the Topeka and KCMO/JOCO metro.Let the voters decide during the next election period which is not far away.Just because speculators purchase property does not guarantee that construction will be allowed for it is NOT the duty of the taxpayer or local government to maximize profits for speculators. Many people involved in the development industry confuse their own profits with the economic health of the community; The development industry confuses growth in supply with growth in demand. Economic growth is assessed by the growth in demand. Demand must precede supply and support supply.If supply is built beyond the available demand, then bad things happen. Older centers empty out and become blighted. Developers never pick up the cost of this blight; they simply look to the taxpayers to pay the very expensive costs of redevelopment. Even this expensive redevelopment fails unless there is sufficient demand for space. It is crucial to the health of any community that the growth in supply be kept at a pace that matches the growth in demand. Unfortunately, the development and construction industries are prone to overbuilding. Preventing excessive growth in supply is easy and costless; it only takes growth controls by the community. This is the purpose of the market analysis requirement integrated into the planning process. Except at the extreme, developers make money even in overbuilt markets. Thus, the builders and developers have captured control of the political process to prevent the community from taking steps to slow the pace of growth.Four of five commissioners were elected by the chamber of commerce/ real estate/development industry which creates ethics problems.

hipper_than_hip 9 years, 11 months ago

I wonder who gave Chad the impression that the people who oppose this project live in "rural estate-type homes"? The Schwadas perhaps? A quick drive around the perimeter of the property would reveal no homes adjacent to the proposed annexation that are valued at more that $150k. Of course there's no mention that Steve Schwada lives two miles east in a $560k home. There are some very nice homes about one-half mile north of the proposed annexation; does your net worth or the value of your home matter whether or not you support or oppose this annexation? Apparently to the Schwadas it's ok to support this project if you have a rural estate-type home (like Steve does), but not if you oppose it. Perhaps 458Casul could explain that.There are city regs that prohibit sewage lagoons; aren't those still in effect, or has the city waived that particular requirement for this project?

Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

The developers are the ones demanding annexation.Empty light industrial space cost taxpayers money everyday? Let the voters/taxpayers decide in the next city or county commission cycle which is not far away. Yes the taxpayers determine their future tax liability.Empty light industrial space cost taxpayers money everyday? Tanger Mall is on I-70 why not call that light industrial and fill that space first. This is a tax liability on the community as it stands every day.Each new light industrial park should be its' own tax benefit district so that all costs now and in the future are abosrbed by the industrial park.Why should the voter/taxpayers decide? Because I do not trust the common sense of the current commissioners. Why do I not trust the common sense of our current city,county and planning commissioners? 6 of 8 city and county commissioners campaigns have been funded by:

repaste 9 years, 11 months ago

Cheap, low benifit, short sighted solution for a spot that should hold a key sot in the city future. A quick buck now will diminish the future potential. How about Dougs land & illegal barn at 1750 & Queens?

OnlyTheOne 9 years, 11 months ago

A new version of "BushCo and the Dummies!" I just haven't come up with a fitting name yet.Where is the NEED? Has anybody on the pro side of this read the front or any pages of the newspaper other than the Sports section lately?Lawrence, KS developers run amuck.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

The decision on this has already been made. It will pass with little or no scrutiny from the city commission.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

as it should pass and bring more tax dollars to are city.oh wait you dont want that

Bill Chapman 9 years, 11 months ago

Wasn't there something about "being fiscally responsible" said by the new mayor? Opening land up to developers without clear planning or possible business interests (other than the developers) doesn't sound very "fiscally responsible".

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

as for planning staff they are just asleep at the wheel,oh wait they lost there wheel

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

They don't even know what businesses, if any, will locate there, so any new tax collection is pure hype. What's a certainty is that once this passes, in very short order they'll be demanding city water and sewer services, along with fire and police protection, road maintenance, etc, be extended to them, and the bill for that will be handed to the taxpayers.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

all of you nimbys that want to do it and tell everyone how to do it.Open your check books and do it yourself no one is stopping you.What no check book

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

"Open your check books"If this passes, we'll definitely be opening our checkbooks to pay for it.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

bozo do your own development you gripe enouph and have nothing put your energy to do your own, what no balls or glory.big balls .com buy some

Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

I am not living in fear that any presentation will dramatically impact this group of commissioners toward fiscal prudence. Certainly not when they have opportunities to spend upwards of $42 million to promote filling in our North Lawrence flood plain with roof tops and asphalt. Prudent spending of tax dollars is simply within their realm.Considering a project that promotes a better quality for many many taxpayer/citizens daily such as the T should take priority. After all the tax dollars that would be required to finance zero demand industrial sites could finance the T for up to 20 years. Throw in the tax dollar cost of all the new roads on the table could likely finance the T for 30 years. It seems promoting fewer cars on the road is fiscally prudent.There is plenty of reasons to Let The Voters Decide on their future tax liabilities.Consider Eudora,Desoto,Cedar Creek corporate park,JOCO and KCMO metro are all competitors who are far closer to the 435,35 and 70 connections. Our bedroom community wonder by local developers does not allow for tax incentive packages because the bedroom community tax base cannot afford such tricky book keeping.Let The Voters Decide!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

What are you complaining about, MIke? This is going to pass, and you might even get some plumbing work out of it for being such a troll on this forum.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

bozo you need to take your meds, plumbing no developments I have done several pull your check book out and try it if you have the millions it takes to get it done

Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

If all the millions are available why annexation? There is no proof of demand thus no proof if benefit to the community anytime in the near future. It's called cooking the books.Stay focused on Farmland and East Hills. Lawrence is not KCMO/JOCO metro. Hell there is no indication that East Hills will be filled up anytime soon and they want to keep that operation a secret.... it's the same crew at the Lecompton site. Cannot trust this group.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

merrill sence you dont get it let me tell you its called location,how close is east hills or farmland to I 70 dont you want the trucks off the city streets,no not you.and dont you want the pollutions out of the not you or your this is fun

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 11 months ago

North Lawrence is even closer, Mike. Why are things so bad there?

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

get on it bozo you have millions do your own,the scene of junk cars and metal buildings

Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

The bottom line is need. Where is the demand? Empty buildings cost taxpayers money. Communities need more than property taxes coming from any structure or else taxpayers pick up the rest. Taxpayers are responsible for all infrastructure maintenance. So the city they say is not being asked for any assistance. What about the county cookie jar?Taxpayers always forget the county commissioners. Why is that? This is why I say it's time to bring our local government under one umbrella. OR the county stay out of development. Leave it to the cities.Taxpayers cannot afford two different helter skelter development plans.

Openedup 9 years, 11 months ago

They own industrial / residential land a mile to the south. If they get this passed, it will be easier to sell to some big industry, the utilities and water needed to be extended will also serve their other properties to the south, and most likely, if there is expense for the infrastructure they can split the costs between all their properties or the city pays for it all. Pretty shrewd move. Like killing two, three or four birds with one stone.

Openedup 9 years, 11 months ago

Corrected, they own property 2 1/2 - 3 miles to the south: light industrial; residential; and commercial. If they get this passed the city might give them the infrastructure they need to service this far northern industrial development and since the city will have these lines run all the way out there, they might as well tie their other properties into it since those properties aren't being served by utilities yet. No drugs necessary to recognize a cunning and shrewd move.

outsidethebox 9 years, 11 months ago

I just want to say that one should always keep an opened mind about the development for the future. if the project is to bring new jobs to the city then these jobs will proivde new taxes to the city and increase the growth rate of Lawrence. life is all about risk, those who risk nothing, will have nothing. like saying i want to win the lotto but i am not going to take the risk of lossing the dollar for it.

lounger 9 years, 11 months ago

Chop, Chop. Disappear, Goodbye, so long. SHeesh who gives a rats A*s about building houses-lets preserve the last tracts of green we have left in northeast Kansas. Build, Build, Build! No regard for future generations just fatten your bank accounts and count your money whilst paving what used to be a beautiful region of the country. I hope you all sleep well at night because the nightmares will catch up to you someday.....

outsidethebox 9 years, 11 months ago

Man look around, stand up look farthure than the tip of one's own nose and you will see nothing but green. Green will feed the cows and we have alots of that to depend on. but for the future generations they need solid ground to stand on and some where to work and if we do not keep pushing for developments everything will go overseas or to other parts of the country. so we tell our future generations we do not want to build for you, we want to see green.

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