Archive for Monday, February 11, 2008

City growth forces change

Residents of area west of Lawrence make adjustments as developments move in

February 11, 2008


Bill Naff, whose property is near Sixth Street and Queens Road on the western edge of Lawrence, has built a sign informing others where his property begins.

Bill Naff, whose property is near Sixth Street and Queens Road on the western edge of Lawrence, has built a sign informing others where his property begins.

The birds already have left.

Bill and Darlene Naff still watch for them from their cozy living room atop the hill at Sixth Street and Queens Road. Bill watches from his recliner positioned next to a humming electric heater, and Darlene from a corner chair comfortable for her needlepointing.

But the covey of quail, the meadowlarks and the red birds are just gone. It's no wonder, Darlene says in between stitches. The ponds that used to water both the birds and the neighbor's wandering white herd of Charolais cattle have been replaced by suburban-style houses and city streets.

Across Sixth Street to the north, plans are in the works for a new golf course and apartment community. Next door, foundations are already being laid as a new apartment complex of 108 units is rising from the ground.

Bill Naff is thankful he can't see that from his living room window. For the time being, his view still is dominated by aging agricultural artifacts - a tractor and bucket loader in an open shed, a weather vane with a perched iron rooster and loop after loop after loop of watering hose hanging from a weathered wooden post.

When stretched, the hose would reach to a solitary red-flagged stake marking the edge of a garden that springs to life each season.

These days, though, it's an open question whether Bill Naff will be here to collect its next harvest.

"We're getting old, and we sure don't want to move," said Naff, who along with his wife is 76. "But we're thinking about it a lot. We don't like being in the city. Too many rules."


This isn't a story about somebody being right or somebody being wrong. It's not about growth or no-growth. It is just about how things are.

Each step the city takes outward requires somebody to look inward. Do you integrate into a city lifestyle? Do you sell and let the next fellow figure it out? Or do you just hope against hope?

"I just wish it was like it was," said Darlene Naff. "I don't want to move way out in the country."

But a return to the past is unlikely for 5275 W. Sixth St. The Naffs' home is a half-mile west of Wakarusa Drive, right along the widened portion of Sixth Street.

In other words, it's in the path of the city.

Today, it seems obvious that the land is destined for city development. The city and the state spent millions earlier this decade to widen Sixth Street to four lanes, which leads to the South Lawrence Trafficway. It's hard to drive the road now without seeing a bulldozer or a construction crew. Naff's property has city development on three sides, and construction is set to start soon to the north.

But back in 1983, it looked like a safe haven to the Naffs. They owned about 10 acres along Folks Road. The city had started to creep out to Monterey Way, and Bill decided to be proactive and move before the city got to him.

"When we bought this place, I was thinking they never would come out here and get me," Naff said.

Technically, they've gotten him now. The property was annexed into the city when the road was widened. That's meant lots of little things. Naff swears his water pressure has dropped since he was forced to switch to city water. And it irks him that he has to pay a $10 per month stormwater fee, even though he's convinced his 3 acres of grass and pea gravel driveways sufficiently soak up any rain that falls.

Then there are the people - just so many of them when you're in the city. The Naffs' property is in the unenviable position of being along the uncompleted portion of Queens Road. There's a nice, new, long left-turn lane on Sixth Street directly outside of the Naffs' house. But those who use it will see only a homemade sign warning that the adjacent driveway is private property.

"It seems like a lot of people need to go back to school and learn how to read," Naff said.

ATV tracks through his garden are not uncommon. People tearing through his driveway to turn around also are frequent.

"And God knows what they're doing when I'm not here," Naff said. "I just don't like living in close quarters. Noise. People starting up their cars every morning to go to work. And all the regulations. You know, you can't spit without getting a permit of some sort."


Bill Naff may be an anachronism, but he's not alone.

Just down the road - near Sixth Street and George Williams Way - Chris Collister is in the same path of the same growing city. A short silo rises above the roofline of a traditional Kansas farm house. Appaloosa horses graze and then surely gaze at the rows and rows of houses just across the street from their pasture.

The house and 17 acres are what's left of the homestead that her parents bought in 1969.

"Mostly, my reason for staying here is a sentimental one," Collister said.

But it becomes tougher as time goes by. She remembers not long ago when police came knocking on her door at midnight to inform her that her horses were running around the neighborhood near Corpus Christi Church. Construction crews near her home had taken down some fence and didn't bother to tell her.

"One of the things everybody in the country knows is that if you take a fence down, you put it back up. If you open a gate, you close it," Collister said. "What everybody calls progress has been a real pain in the rear to me."


But that makes Collister sound like a crotchety complainer. Both she and Bill Naff say that's not how they want to be perceived. Both acknowledge that their properties, when sold, likely will fetch a nice price. And both also said they recognize that cities grow and that it is generally unwise to shut that growth down.

Naff, for instance, said he refused to sign petitions circulated by his neighbors opposing a Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. He laughs about how they worried about the traffic it would create. All the homes and apartments already have done a good job of that, he figures.

"Then the city turns around and won't let in any businesses," said Naff, who is a retiree from the Southwestern Bell Telephone system.

Collister - a retired utility consumer advocate - also said it's unrealistic to think growth would never reach her slice of Douglas County. It has happened faster than she expected, but that's not even her primary complaint.

Instead, she thinks the process can steamroll over many people. She frequently attended City Commission meetings - often driving 500 miles round-trip from her work in Iowa - to protest a special benefit district.

The benefit district would have required her to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for improvements to local streets that area developers were requesting. Her efforts paid off. Commissioners agreed to defer her costs. In other words, the city will pay her share but then be repaid once Collister's property is sold or redeveloped.

She's not sure everybody, however, would know what to do or feel comfortable doing it. She said something - absent hiring a high-priced lawyer - needs to be done to make sure people understand their rights.

"I think about the 80-year-old couple who have lived in their farmhouse for their entire 60-year marriage, and then something like this comes along," Collister said. "I think they would just be overwhelmed and they wouldn't know what to do. To me, that just seems like a crime.

"I'm not saying that progress shouldn't come or that growth is bad. I guess what I'm saying is it needs to be humanized. Most of the time it seems so impersonal."


Back atop the hill, it looks personal to Bill Naff. In an outfit of overalls and flannel - with big glasses covering eyes suffering from macular degeneration - Naff still talks about his old maple tree.

People would drive from "clear west of Topeka" to take a picture of its brilliant colors stretching high into the sky. At first, the road engineers said the tree could stay. But then upon further review, it was determined that it had to go. Naff thought he could at least give the log to a local high school woodworking class. Maybe something homey could be made out of it. But that plan also went awry.

"They just reached up there and tore it to pieces," Naff said. "It wasn't good for anything. It was a landmark. I used to be known as the guy who lived up there with the big maple tree."

No more.


Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

Instead of adding more infrastructure and increasing our cost of community servcies(tax and fee increases) such as the new $8,000,000 water line project will ultimately achieve why not first take care of old business?

Invest in exisiting infrastructure and promote economic growth instead of allowing it to go to hell due to negligence:

*Repair streets and sidewalks in: Downtown Old west Lawrence Old East Lawrence Barker Brookcreek North Lawrence Oread

*Build a $17.5 million dollar library across the street from the New Hampshire parking garage(saves 10 million) and make use of a failed TIF project aka parking garage

*Convert the existing library building into a convention center which could save millions upon millions and protect taxpayers from another TIF project. When library shelves and office space is removed there is a huge space. Lawrence does not need an extravagant building. Clean it up,do some remodel and landscape,landscape,landscape... we're set to go. Two large meeting spaces(one downstairs) and two existing smaller places in the current space.

*Provide development funding for a economic growth team in city hall. Apparently the Chamber of Commerce is not staffed accordingly. There is more transparency in City hall.

*Build the east Lawrence hike and bike trail

*Develop an exciting public transporation system accompanied with an appropriate maintenance facility.

Investing in existing infrastructure pays back and is good for business.

Stephen Roberts 10 years, 4 months ago


Come on man, lay off the pipe so early in the morning. All you do is the same cut and paste. If you and your merry group of followers don't like the direction the city is going- run for office. I would even be willing to give a $100 for your campaign.

Oh I forgot, you and your group the PLC did run the city. No wonder you are still posting your growth policies- Does it hurt not having people to listen to you?

Let me know when you are going to run for city commission.

If you really think impact fees are the way to go. Please show up at a City Commission meeting and tell them your property will be the first to pay an impact fee. Are you willing to do this? I doubt it!!!!

Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

Increases in the Cost of Community Services is what this article is saying to expect: Increases the cost of community services such as: Additonal city staffing and equipment water and sewer lines streets and repairs houses public schools fire stations law enforcement manpower sidewalks snow removal bike trails and cross walks Traffic signals Traffic calming Strip Malls Expensive Flood Control

*In general increases the cost of community services to all taxpayers.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

Since the real estate industry/ developers are the driving force for increasing OUR cost of community services and INCREASING our taxes Lawrence,Kansas needs Impact Fees:

*Bring on Impact Fees!:

Donovan Scruggs, Ocean Springs director of community development and planning, said the city's current budget. crunch can be tied directly to infrastructure expenses needed to serve new housing developments.

"If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch," Scruggs said. "But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by single-family housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality."

Scruggs said there have been two studies done on impact fees. One 100-page study was on services for police and fire protection, administration and parks. A second study was done on infrastructure related impacts on roads, water and water.

The current proposal calls for the fees to be collected separately.

"We want. to make sure we tie the fees as closely as possible to when the demand is being generated," Scruggs said. "Water and sewer fees would be collected when the subdivision is constructed. Services more related to occupancy and homes being constructed would be collected later. For example, no one will have a need for a park until there are kids in that neighborhood."

While developers pay for onsite water, sewer and road infrastructure, Scruggs said it is costly to pay for offsite upgrades needed, such as enlarging lift stations and raising water towers.

"Now if we have to upgrade a lift station, it is paid for by the general fund revenue paid by each taxpayer in the city," Scruggs said. "Someone on the west side of town would have to pay for subsidizing the growth in demand caused by the development in the east part of town."

The eastern part of town is where the greatest residential growth is being seen. Scruggs said there has been so much growth in recent years that the city has to elevate its water towers to keep pressure at adequate levels. "That was a direct result caused by the growth," he said.

Scruggs said that impact fees are legal if they are done properly.

"Madison's impact fee program had problems," Scruggs said. "Ours will not have those problems. It can be done right."

Ocean Springs had 120 homes constructed in 2000, 90 in 2001 and is on track to have 120 homes constructed in 2002. If impact fees had been collected on the 310 homes built in three years, the city would have extra revenues of about $2.1 million.

In order for the city to have orderly growth, developers need to be responsible for a certain amount of the infrastructure. Most builders understand impact fees are for a purpose that improves their development."

Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

How much more of Tax Increment Financing can Lawrence taxpayers afford? Is it being abused?

Well, what is tax increment financing? I'll tell you what it is. You go to the store with your goods, you pay for it at Wal-Mart, and there's a very good chance that that store has made a deal with the government that the sales taxes you are required to pay, that government requires you to pay, never go to the government. Instead, those sales taxes are kept by Wal-Mart and used to pay the cost of the store. And typically in those deals, the store is tax exempt, just like a church.

Now, there are two ways that it's important to think about this. One is, that means your kid's schools, your police department, your library, your parks are not getting that money. And you'll notice we keep saying we're starved for money. We're twice as wealthy as we were in 1980, but we've got to close hospitals, and we've got to close schools, and we don't have money for all sorts of things like after-school programs, even though we're twice as wealthy. The second thing to think about is, imagine that you own Amy Goodman's or Juan's department store across the street. You suddenly have to compete with people whom the government is giving a huge leg up on. You think you would go broke after a while? Well, in fact, you will.

And I tell about a man named Jim Weaknecht who owned a little store in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. He sold fishing tackle, hunting gear, stuff like that. And the way he made his living in his little tiny store, enough that he was able to have his wife stay at home and raise their three kids full time, was by charging less than a company called Cabela's. Well, then Cabela's came to town. This little city of 4,000 people made a deal to give Cabela's $36 million to build a store. That's more than the city budget for that town for ten years. It's $8,000 for every man, woman, and child in that town to have this store. And even though he charged lower prices, he was pretty quickly run out of business.

That's not market capitalism, which is what Ronald Reagan said he was going to bring us. He said, you know, government's the problem, we need markets as a solution. Well, that's not the market. That's corporate socialism. And what we've gotten is corporate socialism for the politically connected rich-not all the rich, the politically connected rich.

Sharon Aikins 10 years, 4 months ago

I think it's time Merrill went and read a book and we all don't have to read his/hers, over and over and over. Again, I can't see the old library as a convention center. What do we do, fill in the pool and make it a parking lot? Maybe we do need to take a better look at who pays for this growth and how, granted. And as to sales tax, if Walmart doesn't pay any, don't worry, I paid the state $26 in sales tax last year.

Keith 10 years, 4 months ago

Jeez Merrill, write a blog if you want so much column space.

OnlyTheOne 10 years, 4 months ago

I REALLY sympathize with them. You "city" folk don't mind driving across my lawn to turn around or care about driving down the driveway to "see what's there." Getting like Johnson Countians and Californians - you've soiled your own nests now you need to find others to soil. I've five acres north of me that's not too far out and pretty quiet - so far. Oh, *&^ now some developer's gonna come buy it and put in tinderboxes........ Oh, yea that's right. The property's south of me. Or was it west?

Janet Lowther 10 years, 4 months ago

About fifty years ago, Frank Lloyd Wright said something to the effect, "If you want to live in the country, figure the furthest you think the city could reach, then go another five miles."

BigPrune 10 years, 4 months ago

Oh boo hoo. So Lawrence is VERY slowly growing. At least these people eventually getting displaced when they sell will also be filthy rich.

If you don't like the growth, and if you have the money, buy these properties yourself. Then we won't have to hear you b*tch and moan. Just don't pull one of your non-profit welfare jack up our my taxes schemes so one of your groups can have the money to buy them.

farmgal 10 years, 4 months ago

Sad. I feel for Mr. Naff. I hope he's got a sign permit for that sign of his. I'd hate to see the wrath of the Do. Co. Zoning Code Enforcement Officers come down upon him. They've got more rules and regs than Carters has pills. And woe unto those who fail to kowtow and comply with their demands and wishes. City folks moving to the country has sure ruined the peaceful country way of life here in Do. Co. Because of the aggressiveness of Do. Co. Zoning, Do. Co. is no longer a very friendly place to live, unfortunately. I often wonder if they have a framed picture of the most famous Code Enforcement Officer of all time (BTK, Dennis Rader) hanging in their office as their mentor.

jafs 10 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps if we weren't so quick to finance corporations through tax-rebate schemes, they wouldn't choose to locate here.

Similarly, if developers had to pay more of the actual costs associated with their developments.

I would rather subsidize individual purchasers than either of the two above categories.

Also, the growth of Lawrence in the last ten years has significantly changed (not for the better) the quality of life here.

BigPrune 10 years, 4 months ago

Growth does pay its fair share and more. Please stop the progressive misinformation. It's like you people took your mantra straight from the Joesef Goebels propaganda handbook - "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." Enough with the cut and paste and you tube links already. We stopped buying your crap. That's why Lawrence elected mentally stable commissioners this last go around.

Doug Fisher 10 years, 4 months ago

Meatwad, those are my thoughts exactly. Why do these people want to see Lawrence turn into another boring, suburban community full of cookie-cutter houses and strip malls? Lawrence used to always make the national "best of" lists in many publications. But I bet that will be changing from now on.

otto 10 years, 4 months ago

It seems that everyone that has ever had to deal with DGCO zoning and codes feels like farmgal. I wonder why this is? Could it be that we recruited these peaople from a communist country? I always thought zoning and codes dept. was there to help understand and abide by the codes. This is not the case. Dept full of nazis and deceit.

BigPrune 10 years, 4 months ago

It wasn't expensive to live in Lawrence until the PLC got elected. That is the direct result of their Zero Growth Policy. Unfortunately, some of their zombies still inhabit parts of City Hall.

Why is it more expensive to live in Lawrence than Overland Park or Olathe? Those cities grew much faster than Lawrence.

I rest my case.

newsreader 10 years, 4 months ago

I wouldn't be thrilled if the developments were moving closer to my land either... but once I eventually sold the land I wouldn't be complaining too much either.

snowWI 10 years, 4 months ago

Olathe also has tons of cookie cutter "cardboard" houses. Olathe is also getting way too crowded and is growing much too fast. It also has that conservative element that elected Rep O'Connor a few years back...

BigPrune 10 years, 4 months ago

I think Lawrence is trying to get a handle on the PLC spending spree. They're the ones that dipped into the reserve fund. They're the ones that mandated all of those super expensive roundabouts. They're the ones that scared away new employers or ran the start ups out of town. They're the ones that mandated expensive extras for new housing. Do you think that trying to keep Walmart away was money well spent? Last I checked, retail sales taxes weren't where they are supposed to be.

justthefacts 10 years, 4 months ago

I am sure that folks who pioneered Kansas probably had some growing pains when the new fangled cities with board sidewalks and such started going up in the state.

Bottom line, the only way to keep things from changing around you is to be your own sovereign nation. You can try to escape "progress" but unless you control everything around you, it will sneak in anyway.

BigPrune 10 years, 4 months ago

I love the "As goes Lawrence, Kansas so goes the rest of the country" excuse. More misinformation.

Lawrence had money problems far in advance of any national economic problems. Don't use that b.s. scapegoat.

lounger 10 years, 4 months ago

"This isn't a story about somebody being right or somebody being wrong. It's not about growth or no-growth. It is just about how things are." Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!! We let the countryside slip away in Douglas county by not drawing a line in the sand and saying - Hey lets not be like the rest of suburban America and be smart. Sprawl is a disease and no one has the guts to do anything about it. We had Rundle and a few others for awile and they had a smart angle about Growth but that is history. Boog cannot do it alone! I love Lawrence but I dont know how much longer it will stay cool. It is so nice being able to drive for ten minutes and be in the countryside. This is no longer possible on the west side. K-10 would be a great modern boundry. Lets think of the future instead of our bank accounts and have some courage before its truly too late!!!

BigPrune 10 years, 4 months ago

I enjoy my backyard and I don't feel it is my place to tell other people they cannot have a backyard. Living in an apartment is not my idea of utopia.

Why are a few people who live on the east side of town so concerned about the people who live on the west side of town? Class envy?

The Zero Growth Policy of the past commission has created increased property taxes and the loss of population. Loss of population equates to an increase of taxes for everyone. An increase of population does not necessitate the increase of taxes. Look at Lawrence during the 1990's. Much better times then, than now.

Godot 10 years, 4 months ago

It has gotten to the point that, if you are determined not to live in the city, you will have to buy a 1000 acre plot and put your house in the middle of it.

mommy3 10 years, 4 months ago

This is so sad. I see people here in Tonganoxie dying to sell hundreds of acres, just to make a $$$$$ buck. One familly in particular - The 300 acres south of town was bought by her Grandparents and they fought to keep it through the great depression. Her Grandfather farmed it, her father farmed it. She can't wait for them to start the county RD 1 project, so deveopers will buy it up. I hate to see so much history go to waste. My heart goes out to these people who don't want change. I wish I could go back 100 years just to see for a moment - the beauty that once was.

Godot 10 years, 4 months ago

mommy3, we are going to have to settle for watching the old "western" movies from the 50's and 60's to remember the beauty that once was.

Meatwad 10 years, 4 months ago

I wish people who want so desperately for Lawrence to turn into Overland Park, would just MOVE THERE AND LEAVE US ALONE.

davisnin 10 years, 4 months ago

Meatwad, I've been saying the same for years.

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