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Archive for Friday, May 23, 2008

Discussion of Lawrence airport industrial park delayed; issue was set for Tuesday city meeting

May 23, 2008

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The fate of a proposed industrial park near the Lawrence Municipal Airport will hang in limbo a little longer.

Lawrence developer Jes Santaularia on Friday asked city commissioners to defer a series of rezoning requests for the project indefinitely. City commissioners had been set to hear the items at their Tuesday evening meeting.

The deferral - which is different from a withdrawal of the plans - came after several city commissioners earlier on Friday said they still had concerns about how much the city would have to spend to extend infrastructure to the site.

"It is no secret that we need land in the future for industrial development, but it still comes down to dollars and cents," said City Commissioner Mike Amyx. "As we've seen the last couple of days with budget hearings, we have a lot of issues to balance."

The proposed business park would be on about 145 acres near the intersection of North Seventh Street and U.S. Highway 24-40 - or generally southwest of the Lawrence Municipal Airport. Santaularia has said the site's prime location near Interstate 70 makes it a logical choice for industrial development. His economic analysis estimates the development could attract 1,600 employees and pay more than $54 million in fees, taxes and other revenue to local governments over 20 years.

But neighbors have opposed the project, saying it would take prime farmland out of production, would add to flooding problems and is too risky for the city.

The project faces a high hurdle at the City Commission. Neighbors have filed protest petitions that will require the project to receive positive votes from four of the five commissioners before it can move forward.

On Friday, City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he still had questions about whether the project had addressed all the stormwater issues it would create for the area. He also said he wanted to further study how much economic benefit the project would provide to the city.

Commissioner Boog Highberger also said he had questions about stormwater and infrastructure costs, and was concerned about the loss of farmland.

The city has estimated that the first phase of the project would require about $3.1 million worth of street, sewer, water and stormwater improvements. Additional phases would require another $5 million

Santaularia has offered to pay $1 million of the first phase costs. He's proposed the city pay another million and that the county pay $1.1 million.

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