Developers who are proposing a new industrial park near Lawrence Municipal Airport are sweetening their offer to city commissioners, who thus far have failed to approve the project.
At Tuesday's City Commission meeting, Lawrence developer Jes Santaularia will drop his request for $1 million in city funding to extend sewer and water lines to the property, which is near the intersection of North Seventh Street and U.S. Highway 24-40. Santaularia said his company now will pay for those costs.
"I think it is a fantastic deal for the city," Santaularia said Friday afternoon.
Santaularia also said he's considering reducing the size of the proposed industrial park from 144 acres to 65 acres in an attempt to quiet concerns from neighbors. The new plan, which Santaularia said he could not yet commit to, would eliminate all the business park property that is proposed for north of the highway.
Neighborhood leaders who have opposed the project said they were not swayed by the new plans. Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association, said his group remains convinced that the development will increase drainage and traffic problems in the area.
"This is a Hail Mary deal," Boyle said of the new plans. "We still don't want it at all."
City commissioners, who have the final say, will consider rezoning requests for the property at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.
Mayor Mike Dever said the new plans have made the project more intriguing. He said removing the $1 million request was important to the city's finances, and reducing the size of the project should lessen concerns about how the project will affect the environment and the nearby Lawrence Municipal Airport.
"When I evaluated it the first time, there were a lot more concerns associated with the project," Dever said. "He's removed at least several of the barriers."
City Commissioner Mike Amyx, though, said he still has concerns about whether the project will worsen stormwater drainage issues in the area. He said he's concerned the project could increase the amount of money the city will have to spend in the near term on drainage projects for the area.
"We just came through a budget where money woes were very real," Amyx said.
Santaularia, though, argues that's why the city should approve the project. He said the area is well-suited to attract new tax-paying, job-producing businesses because of its proximity to Interstate 70.
The project faces a steeper-than-normal hill to climb at City Hall. Because neighbors filed a valid petition protesting the rezonings, the project can move forward only if four of the five commissioners approve the project.