There’s a fine line between being “no growth” and simply wanting to hold out for the best projects for Lawrence.
Lawrence city commissioners are trying to walk that line in their consideration of a proposed development at the southeast corner of Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive. At Tuesday’s meeting, three commissioners seemed inclined to approve a development that would place 161 new apartment units at the site, while two commissioners voiced concerns.
Commissioner Mike Amyx wondered aloud whether the city wouldn’t be better off with a mix of commercial and residential uses at the site. He also correctly noted that “we only have one chance to get this right.” The property is on a prominent intersection on one of the city’s most-traveled thoroughfares, and how it is developed is important to the city.
The other side of the issue is that any development needs to have a willing private developer that wants to pursue it and pay for it. Lawrence businessman Mike Stultz has proposed such a plan. Commissioner Lance Johnson, who supported the project, said Tuesday that it “may not be everything the neighbors want, but I believe it is a lot better than what could go out there.”
Johnson’s statement is less than a ringing endorsement, but does that mean the city should turn down the current proposal and insist on a development that is more acceptable to the neighborhood and perhaps more beneficial to the community as a whole? It’s a tough call.
The proposed plan would be relatively low-density for a multi-family development. The buildings would all be one story, and developers have agreed to restrictions that would allow no more than two unrelated people to live in each of the one-bedroom units. It’s valid to wonder whether Lawrence really needs any more multi-family housing right now, but who is to decide whether there is additional need or market for such units?
The Inverness intersection also is one of the few locations on Clinton Parkway between Kasold and Wakarusa drives, that could easily accommodate non-residential uses. Is more commercial development needed in that area or are the nodes at Kasold and Wakarusa enough?
Lawrence needs to demand the best possible developments, but it can’t let a search for the perfect project stymie desirable growth. The project at Inverness and Clinton Parkway is a good example of the challenges of drawing that line.