Each morning and evening the most suburban of scenes takes center stage in this rural "neighborhood."
Commuters with foam coffee cups, flip phones and backseat carpoolers travel up and down the ramps of a turnpike interchange that pops forth from a rolling pasture land. Larger-than-average homes with fences of split rail instead of chain link punctuate the landscape that mixes suburban expatriates with men who still make a living from the land.
Depending on your view of geography, you are either in rural Lawrence or rural Lecompton. But for the time being, it is still clearly rural.
Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting tonight may clear up the geography considerably, but may muddy the rural question. Commissioners are being asked to annex about 155 acres just north of the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. It would be the first step in a plan to convert the property into an industrial park.
Developers - including Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada - contend the site has better potential than most to attract a major employer, such as a distribution center or other business that relies on good interstate access. The property is less than 1,000 feet from Interstate 70.
Some city commissioners agree.
"I certainly believe industrial can be an appropriate land use out there," City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said.
Neighbors, though, have argued to planning commissioners, county commissioners and city commissioners that the area isn't ready for development. They've said the area is a gateway for the city that deserves more planning.
Some city commissioners agree.
"I think it is premature," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. "One problem is it is just so far from city services."
The site is about 1.5 to 2 miles from city water and sewer service. But because the developers are voluntarily seeking annexation, the city is not obligated to provide them with city infrastructure within a specified time period. The developers aren't asking for sewer and water service to be extended immediately. If an extension of service is needed, the city legally could require the developers to pay for it, City Manager David Corliss said.
That is not likely in the near term, though. Instead, developers said there are industrial users - such as distribution centers - that would not need city utilities.
But even supporters of industrial development in the area said the issue of city services is one that will have to be carefully considered. Chestnut said he wants developers to agree in writing to prohibit certain types of uses at the site. He said that would include all commercial uses such as gasoline stations, unless there were city utilities on the site. He also said heavy manufacturing would be unlikely for the area without utilities.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable approving several types of uses out there because the systems aren't there," Chestnut said.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. If the annexation is approved, city commissioners will hear a rezoning request for the property in the next several weeks.
Unlike the annexation issue, property owners near the site can file a petition protesting a change in zoning. If the petition contains enough signatures, it would require the rezoning be approved by a supermajority of four commissioners instead of the normal three.