Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

City gives development proposal closer look

If approved, Smart Code could lead to more dense, mixed-use building projects

City commissioners approved two speed cushions near Sunset Hill School in their meeting Tuesday night.

November 19, 2008


City commissioners got their most detailed look yet at a set of proposed development rules that could produce major changes in how neighborhoods are built and how much the public learns about proposed projects.

During a Tuesday afternoon study session, commissioners were briefed on the long-proposed Smart Code, which would be an optional development code that builders in the city could use to create developments that mimic older-style neighborhoods that mix uses and have more density.

“We’re excited because this is typically the type of code that builds neighborhoods instead of more automobile-oriented subdivisions,” said Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning.

But the proposed code also would put large parts of the approval process in the hands of city staff members.

“This code is wrong in both substance and process,” said Kirk McClure, an associate professor in urban planning at Kansas University. “If anything, this will exacerbate the problem of overbuilding.”

The major change that neighbors may notice is that they would have less idea about what some developments will look like before the property is rezoned. That’s because under the proposed Smart Code, the zoning does not place limits on the number of buildings or homes that can be built on a piece of property. The zoning also allows for everything from retail space to single family homes to apartments all on the same piece of property.

The city’s traditional zoning code does place maximum densities on pieces of property, and it places much greater limits on the type of uses allowed.

Under the Smart Code, the issues of density and specific uses would be determined through a design approval process. But for new projects on the edge of the city, much of that design approval process is handled by city staff members instead of city commissioners.

Adjacent landowners or nearby neighborhood associations, though, could appeal the administrative decision to the City Commission for a public hearing. Projects within the existing city limits automatically would go before the City Commission.

The biggest question with the code, though, may be whether developers will use it. Developers will still have the option of using the city’s existing code, which promotes more suburban style development.

“Like anything that is wholly new, it is being viewed with a lot of skepticism but some optimism,” said Tim Herndon, principal of Landplan Engineering who works with the development community.

Herndon said developers were intrigued by the ability to create walkable neighborhoods that may have a mix of retail, single-family and apartment uses in the same area.

The Smart Code will be up for approval at the Dec. 16 City Commission meeting.

Other business

In other news from the commission’s weekly meeting, commissioners:

• approved a pair of speed cushions for Ninth Street near Sunset Hill School and a pedestrian-activated crossing signal for Peterson Road near Arrowhead Drive. Commissioners, though, did not identify a funding source for the projects, which will cost a total of about $60,000. There’s no word on when they may be built.

• approved a host of ordinances that will allow the city to start charging three new sales taxes approved by voters as part of the Nov. 4 elections. The three taxes — totaling 0.55 percent — will go on the books April 1.

• reapproved a change in zoning for 155 acres near the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. The industrial zoning is being challenged in court by neighbors. Commissioners reapproved the rezoning with slightly different wording to take away a legal argument from the group. Commissioners approved it on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Boog Highberger voting against it.


roger_o_thornhill 9 years, 5 months ago

I think this town is missing the boat by not adding a extra tax on alcohol sales. Maybe liquor lobby has made this impossible, but if not, there are lots of $$$ in alcohol beverage sales in this town and it isn't like a % or 2 will send folks to Eudora to drink. If so, how much money can the city make on dui charges? Zoning that promotes sprawl should have its motivations and proponents questioned. Why should everything be driving, and not walking distance from home? Of course with the box stores, you'd get winded just crossing the parking lot (not to mention probably getting run over).

Richard Heckler 9 years, 5 months ago

The code actually removes the power of tax paying neighborhoods to intervene. By the time a challenge can be proposed the development may well be underway. This is called hiding behind the term"Smart Code" in an effort to pull the wool over the eyes of those who have not been following closely. This particular smart code is designed for local developers.As Kirk McClure noted this bogus smart code approach does not resolve the matter of being over built in the areas of retail and residential which in reality is business unfriendly. Over built retail screws existing retailers thus is business unfriendly.Over built residential screws existing homeowners as it impacts property values = reduces values = increase in taxes or user fees to maintain a bedroom community. In essence this practice is homeowner/taxpayer unfriendly.A real live smart growth approach was introduced and rejected several times over the past 15 years. The new Smart Code is nothing more than additional local corporate welfare. The bottom line Lawrence does not need more homes or retail no matter what it's called.Meet Kirk McClure:Kirk McClure Professor Graduate Program in Urban Planning University of Kansas Ph. D., Urban Planning, University of California at Berkeley, 1985; Master of City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1978; Bachelor of Arts, Urban Studies, University of Kansas, 1974; Bachelor of Architecture, University of Kansas, 1973

Richard Heckler 9 years, 5 months ago

I call this corruption:"• reapproved a change in zoning for 155 acres near the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. The industrial zoning is being challenged in court by neighbors. Commissioners reapproved the rezoning with slightly different wording to take away a legal argument from the group. Commissioners approved it on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Boog Highberger voting against it."Why not let the court decide the issue before moving forward? The power of local special interests!!!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

Some people own 2-7 homes. Some are recreational homes. When the bottom falls out of an economy many of these homes also come on the market. The oil market crash of the 1980's sent a lot of lake front homes on the market not to mention primary homes.This type of activity covers a broad economic spectrum. You bet white collar too. Tulsa Engineers were walking away from primary residential simply because they had no way to keep up the mortgage and no buyers were available. At one point Tulsa,Oklahoma had more than 7,000 homes on the market which takes many years to recover....if ever. Yes property values depreciated quickly which is typical when booms end. Some lake properties were being sold for way less that what was paid. It was a period when sellers were naming their price and buyers were in a frenzy....sounds like Lawrence,Kansas.Again that period also was a boom town home buying economy which came to an abrupt end. Booms do come to an end. Property values depreciated quickly. Why do business and bankers repeat this crap? Why does local government keep saying yes yes yes to more residential instead of showing fiscal restraint? Instead here we are again.Better keep a close eye on local elected officials. They may still be pretending the Lawrence boom is not over and will further depreciate property values by their decisions. Radio news says there are more than 10,000,000(million) homes on the market. Where are the buyers?

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