A divided Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday sided with neighbors in their efforts to stop a 161-unit apartment complex in southwest Lawrence.
On a 3-2 vote commissioners denied a rezoning request for about 11 acres of vacant ground at the southeast corner of Inverness Drive and Clinton Parkway after neighbors delivered more than an hour’s worth of opposition to the proposal.
“I’ve heard the neighbors tonight say they will take their chances with something else,” said Commissioner Aron Cromwell.
Multiple neighbors said the area near their homes already had become saturated with apartment complexes. Representatives of the developers — a local group led by Lawrence businessman Mike Stultz — had agreed to beef up landscaping in the area, and limit the number of unrelated adults that could live in each unit to no more than two in an effort to address neighborhood concerns.
The developers also argued that the current residential-office zoning on the property still would allow some sort of multiple family development, but the requested zoning would allow it to be designed in a way more compatible with the neighborhood.
“I get that the neighborhood doesn’t want another apartment complex,” Commissioner Lance Johnson said. “The reality is more multi-family can be built on this property today. The developers have done more than what is required by code. To me, it is a very attractive proposal.”
Johnson was joined by Mayor Rob Chestnut in supporting the rezoning request. Chestnut said he did not want the decision to hinge on whether Lawrence’s market could absorb more apartments.
“I don’t know their target market and those issues,” Chestnut said. “If we get into trying to figure that out with every request, I believe our long-term planning will become very unpredictable.”
Commissioners Mike Amyx, Mike Dever and Cromwell voted against the rezoning.
“A lot of these folks have made investments in their homes based on the zoning that was put in place on that property,” Amyx said. “I just believe we can do better.”
Neighbors proposed creating a special benefit district that would tax residents in the immediate area to buy the property and turn it into a city park. Commissioners did not endorse that idea, saying they were concerned about ongoing maintenance costs and also about taking the property off the tax rolls.
Mark Andersen, an attorney for the development group, said he was unsure whether the developer would now begin working on developing a new multi-family plan that could be built with the existing zoning of the property.
In other business, commissioners:
• Unanimously approved a wording change that makes it clear that abandoned vehicles can not be stored in a driveway. They can continue to be stored in a garage or other structures. Vehicles normally are considered abandoned if they are inoperable or don’t have a tag, commissioners were told by staff members. A recent Municipal Court ruling had found that abandoned vehicles could be stored in a driveway.
• Agreed unanimously to complete a questionnaire showing interest in participating in the Google Fiber for Communities program, which is an idea by Google to install an ultra-high-speed broadband network in a community.