Farmers Turnpike development
A developer's request for annexation of land by the city of Lawrence is in the hands of the Douglas County Commission - at least for now.
Tuesday night, Lawrence City Commission approved a resolution asking the county to decide whether annexation of 159 acres north of the Lecompton Interstate 70 interchange will hinder or prevent growth of the area.
Commissioner Boog Highberger was the only one of the five commissioners who voted against the resolution. He said the wording of the resolution indicates that the city favors annexation and is asking the county for a determination favoring it.
But the resolution's approval doesn't mean city commissioners have decided to annex, City Manager Dave Corliss said. Commissioners still need to authorize the drafting of an ordinance that will cause annexation. Commissioners put that authorization on hold until they find out what the County Commission will do and because they want more information about the development proposal and related issues.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions," City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said. "There are still a lot of details to be worked out. I have some concerns about potential uses."
The annexation proposal came from a development group led by Steve and Duane Schwada and Stonewell Farms LLC. The group wants to develop the site at the northwestern corner of North 1800 Road and East 900 Road into a business park. The property is not adjacent to the city limits and has been described as an "island annexation" request.
More than 30 people showed up at the City Commission meeting, and many of them spoke against annexation. They also cited lack of information about the proposal as well as concerns about adequate water and sewage services at the site.
"The whole intent of this remains hazy to me," said David Smith, who said he was representing a grass-roots action group. "All of this seems like a poor plan, at best premature."
Allowing a business park or light industrial site at the location goes against the city's master development guide known as "2020," said attorney Ron Schneider, who represented the Scenic Riverway Community Association. Approving the annexation would show that the city considers the 2020 document no better than window dressing, he said. He also noted the size of the site proposal.
"I would suggest this is not an island annexation but a continent annexation," Schneider said.
But Beth Johnson, vice president for economic development at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, said the city needs to increase its tax base and spoke in favor of annexation. She noted the success of Lawrence's East Hills Business Park, which was an island annexation 20 years ago.
Developers are looking at providing on-site storage of water for fire protection and other needs, said Jane Eldredge, a planning and zoning attorney representing the annexation site's landowners. She encouraged the city to let the county consider the annexation issue.
A decision on the annexation probably won't be made until at least this summer, city officials said.