Lawrence city commissioners have not cleared up the future of the Oread neighborhood.
At a study session on Tuesday, commissioners said they still had several questions about the feasibility of parts of the proposed Oread Neighborhood Plan.
The plan, which already has been approved by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, encourages the creation of a new rental registration program for properties in the Oread neighborhood. But commissioners said they weren’t certain such a program would be created anytime soon.
“We’ve talked about rental registration several times, but I don’t think we’re any closer to having that program now than we were a couple of years ago,” said Mayor Mike Amyx. “Maybe that is being unfair, but there is just a shortage of money to put that forward.”
The proposed plan also calls on the city to encourage owner occupancy in the neighborhood while also preserving the historic character of the neighborhood. Some commissioners said those two goals may be competing in nature.
“There are a lot of single family users who can’t afford to buy an old home in Oread and renovate it for a single family structure,” said Commissioner Mike Dever. “But a nonoccupant might have the dollars to rehabilitate it as a rental.”
Dever said the plan may need to get more specific about what it wants as its top goal — encouraging owner occupancy or preserving structures.
“I’m not sure you can please everybody on this,” he said.
Commissioners also said the plan needs to better address how multiple nonconforming properties in the neighborhood will be treated. There are several commercial properties and rental properties that don’t meet all zoning requirements today, but have been allowed to exist under a grandfather provision of the code.
If the plan calls for those properties to be brought up to code, some commissioners said the city may need to give property owners multiple years to do so. When a previous city commission required sorority and fraternity houses to meet several new fire codes, those groups were given 10 years to comply, staff members said.
“We may have to look at something like that again,” said Commissioner Rob Chestnut. “We could be talking about much more than a couple of years to do this.”
Commissioners did not set a timeline to bring the plan back up for approval. But staff members said they do continue to move ahead with another Oread-related issue. Planning commissioners are tentatively scheduled to hear proposed changes to the city’s boarding house regulations in May.
Some Oread residents had wanted the boarding house regulations to be delayed until a neighborhood plan is approved.