Archive for Friday, December 3, 2010

City of Lawrence’s legal department looking at how abstentions will alter votes needed to grant incentives to Ninth and New Hampshire project

Abstaining officials pose legal question

An architectural rendering of a proposed seven-story building from the perspective of Ninth and New Hampshire Streets.

An architectural rendering of a proposed seven-story building from the perspective of Ninth and New Hampshire Streets.

December 3, 2010


The longtime saying at Lawrence City Hall is that you have to be able to count to three — meaning that nothing passes through the City Commission without three votes.

As first reported in Town Talk, the city’s legal staff is now reviewing whether there is a scenario where three votes on the five-member commission may not be necessary.

Toni Wheeler, director of legal services for the city, has confirmed that a request for the city to provide incentives to a multi-story building project at Ninth and New Hampshire has her office researching a unique, potential scenario where two votes on the commission may be enough to pass the incentives request.

As the Journal-World previously reported, Commissioners Mike Dever and Lance Johnson both abstained from voting when commissioners received the incentives request in November. Both commissioners, as part of their private businesses, had done some work on the development — which is a seven-story apartment, office and retail building that is under construction by a group led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor.

If both Johnson and Dever continue to abstain from future votes on the matter, there are several issues the city’s legal staff will have to determine about how the incentives request can proceed. Among the issues Wheeler is studying:

• Are Dever and Johnson legally required to abstain from future votes or are they simply choosing to abstain? If they are legally barred from voting on the issue, then there’s a question of whether the City Commission has enough members to form a quorum. The City Commission’s quorum is four members. The city is studying whether two members who abstain can still be counted as part of the quorum. If the City Commission doesn’t have a quorum on an issue, it can’t vote on a matter.

• If the City Commission does have a quorum, what happens if the remaining city commissioners split on the issue 2-1? It is clear in both state law and the city’s own rules that any ordinance must receive at least three votes in favor to be approved by the City Commission, Wheeler said. But Wheeler said it is possible that the incentives request wouldn’t be handled by an ordinance but rather through a contract. She’s trying to determine if the law requires three votes to approve a contract.

“The law is less clear on that point,” Wheeler said.

The issue ultimately may be moot. None of the three remaining commissioners has said that they plan to oppose the incentives request, although they’ve also stopped short of supporting it. Instead, commissioners are awaiting a report from the city manager’s office weighing the cost and benefits of the request.

Developers of the $10 million project are seeking the ability to reserve about 65 parking spaces in the adjacent public parking garage, and are asking for about $280,000 in city funding to pay for several upgrades to public infrastructure.

A date hasn’t yet been set for city commissioners to consider the incentives request.


gccs14r 7 years, 4 months ago

I hope they're not even permitted to consider it for lack of a quorum. Maybe that would keep the corporatists from completely stacking future commissions, or keep commissioners out of the pockets of the developers.

I really really wish we had commission districts with a 4-year at-large Mayor. Dividing the city N/S at 23rd, E/W at Iowa, and the river (or 6th St) would give us five districts. Lines could be adjusted slightly so that each district has approximately the same number of people, but there should be no gerrymandering permitted.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

And a tip to Doug Compton:

If you want to ask the city for handouts on one of your projects, don't hire city commissioners to work on it.

pinecreek 7 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps an easier method than all of this research into quorums and conflicts of interest--just don't give the project any incentives. Fact is they've dug the hole and started the project--they don't need them.

irvan moore 7 years, 4 months ago

i have faith in our city commission, they will figure out a way to "interpet" the law so that they will all be able to vote with no conflict of interest or will decide beforehand a way to "bend" the rules so it is ok to pass it without the quorum. or, maybe they will decide the results of a 3 commissioner vote before the vote. it kinda stinks.

Ward 7 years, 4 months ago

The project was funded by a bank or other financial institution without this kickback. The development team submitted the project for historic resources commission review and building permit without this kickback. What is the developer's reasoning for the request of PUBLIC MONEY?

If PUBLIC MONEY goes toward anything on this PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT, then perhaps the development team could offer a PUBLIC function or PUBLIC improvement as part of their PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT. How will the project benefit the community?

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

I generally agree, and think that bait and switch tactics should not be rewarded/encouraged.

One possible benefit, though, is that more folks living downtown may increase downtown shopping and thus help downtown businesses.

Gedanken 7 years, 4 months ago

How is that going to help the PUBLIC?

Oh wait - I see - it will raise city generated revenue so they can cut taxes?


Show me one instance where that has happened.

Jennifer Dropkin 7 years, 4 months ago

Ward has a golden idea: how about a bus hub and shelter on and at the first floor? Now that would be adequate compensation for taking public money for a private endeavor.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

This is bug government tax dollar mooching pure and simple. Hobbs Taylor provides parking.

The answer is simple. Builders must always provide their own parking for their own profit making ventures!!!

Yes I was wondering when the builders would be forcing themselves on the taxpayers again.

Why would any financial institution provide financing on a project such as this without parking for the tenants? Seems a bit reckless. What makes any financial institution believe this project will work without taxpayers and the bank getting burned?

This group seem to be having problems in Topeka:

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

"Please attend an emergency party to raise funds for Rob and Mike. When: Monday, February 12, 2007 7:00-8:30 PM" merrill, do you ever bother to read what you are copy/pasting?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Apparently, you read, but don't comprehend. (that willful ignorance thing again?)

Richard Heckler 7 years, 4 months ago

Isn't that when the special interest groups gathered?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 4 months ago

Who are you? The "real" merrill never responds to questions about his posts.

Kookamooka 7 years, 4 months ago

You are right on, Pine Creek! They have already begun the project. They do NOT need the incentives.

Compton and his cronies obviously want this one REAL bad. They'll get over the fact that the city won't give them incentives. UNLESS, of course, they already banked on it.

I can think of lots of things to do with a hole in the ground if they decide to scrap the project. Plant a friggin tree!

ksarmychick 7 years, 4 months ago

Since they want to reserve 65 spots, are they going to be paying the normal hourly rate when it is charged? Or is this another bogus free take from the tax payer deal. I would be okay with them allowing the building residents monthly parking in the garage for a fee, but if I have to pay to park, they should have to pay to park.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Reserved spaces should come at a premium, not the normal hourly rate. After all, who is going to enforce these reservations if not city personnel?

irvan moore 7 years, 4 months ago

it won't be open parking on the top we give away, it will be prime 2nd level covered parking.

Phil Minkin 7 years, 4 months ago

The commission should also consider this: . It appeared in the on line LJW, but never in print and is not available when you search Doug Compton(???). He and his partner Bo Newsome are delinquent on taxes on a project in Topeka. Do we really want to get in the same mess?

kernal 7 years, 4 months ago

I find this Very disturbing. There are all kinds of implications for this and future news items.

Anne Tangeman 7 years, 4 months ago

Hasn't Compton gotten enough? If he wants to build his big complex, let his residents figure out parking like everyone else that comes downtown. He's already done enough wrecking of downtown by buying up properties, raising the rents and driving out locals so we get ridiculous chain stores. Does he want our downtown to look exactly like every strip mall in Johnson County suburbs? What makes us unique? Compton is not serving the community, he is serving himself and his wallet. He doesn't need any favors. Incentives...ridiculous.

kernal 7 years, 4 months ago

And you know he'll be charging extra to his tenants for this "exclusive" parking.

lawslady 7 years, 4 months ago

There are Attorney General Opinions already written on these issues and how to count quorums and majorities and votes in the various scenarios. If the City legal team wants to get back up (or help) in finding out the answer, they might start there.

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