N 1800 Road and E 1000 Road
The area along the Farmers Turnpike northwest of Lawrence took another step closer to becoming more city than country Tuesday night.
City commissioners at their weekly meeting approved a request to annex 51 acres of ground along the rural road as part of a plan to add more industrial sites to the area.
The site — which is on the southwest corner of N 1800 Road and E 1000 Road, which is Queens Road extended — is just north of Interstate 70. It is also just east of the Lecompton interchange on the turnpike.
“Some of the heaviest industrial land uses in the community are located in close proximity to this,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said, referring to Westar Energy’s power plant and several industrial businesses that are farther east on the Farmers Turnpike. “I feel like this is a natural progression of land use in the area.”
A development group led by Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada sought the annexation and has plans to seek industrial zoning for the property, a request that likely will be heard by city commissioners in early 2011.
The request is just the latest in industrial proposals for the area. The city also has annexed 155 acres that is immediately north of the Lecompton turnpike interchange. That property has been zoned for industrial uses, although it currently is part of a lawsuit filed by neighbors. A site for a more than 600,000-square-foot Berry Plastics warehouse and distribution center also has been approved for land on the Farmers Turnpike, just west of the Lecompton interchange.
Several neighbors opposed the most recent annexation request. Lawrence attorney Ron Schneider, representing an opposition group that has formed in the area, told commissioners that the request was inappropriate because the property was still miles away from city services and is surrounded by property that is not in the city limits.
“We believe the concept of island annexation should be the exception, not the rule,” Schneider said. “This request is just premature.”
The annexation request does include some special provisions that address the likelihood that water and sewer service won’t immediately be extended to the site. The city contemplates allowing some development to occur at the site using rural water and on-site sewage storage systems. The city also inserted language into the annexation agreement that gives the city the ability to deny a building permit for the site if it is determined that the proposed user needs city utility services to properly function.
Thus far, the development group doesn’t have a specific tenant identified for the property. Instead, the group wants to begin marketing the property to potential users.
Commissioners approved the annexation request on a 4-0 vote. Mayor Mike Amyx was absent. He was recovering from an illness that left him briefly hospitalized earlier in the week. Amyx said earlier on Tuesday that he expects to resume his meeting duties by next week.
In other business, city commissioners:
• Asked staff to arrange for a study session with the Douglas County Commission in early 2011 to discuss both the Northeast Sector Plan and a proposed environmental chapter to Horizon 2020. Commissioners on Tuesday took no other action on the two plans, which have sparked concerns from neighbors and business groups.
• Preliminarily approved a change in the City Commission’s quorum. Historically, the city has had a quorum of four, meaning that four of the five commissioners had to attend a meeting in order for any business to be conducted. State law has long allowed a five-member commission to have a quorum of three members. Commissioners on Tuesday said they decided to change it to three commissioners because several recent events made them aware that the commission could be forced to operate with three commissioners on rare occasions.
Commissioners cited Amyx’s recent illness — details of which weren’t publicly disclosed — and recent speculation that Commissioner Rob Chestnut could have been in a position to leave his term early. Chestnut had been in the running to serve as Gov.-elect Sam Brownback’s budget director, which may have caused him to vacate his seat.
Commissioners approved the quorum change on first reading Tuesday but will put the issue back on the regular agenda for second reading next week because Amyx was not at Tuesday’s meeting.