Archive for Tuesday, March 2, 2010

City Commission rejects plan for more apartments in west Lawrence

City commissioners rejected a plan to build a large apartment complex in southwest Lawrence.

March 2, 2010, 8:38 p.m. Updated March 3, 2010, 12:00 a.m.


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.

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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.


roggy 8 years, 1 month ago

thank you, thank you, thank you Way too many apartments for the area as it is now.

pizzapete 8 years, 1 month ago

About time, that's what I was thinking.

1029 8 years, 1 month ago

Maybe there wouldn't be so many homeless people if our do-nothing city commission stopped preventing apartments from being builten. New apartments bring jobs for construction workers, grounds crew, leasing agents, as well as a nice place for people to live (sometimes people who were homeless before). No wonder Johnson County is leaving us in the dust.

parrothead8 8 years, 1 month ago

1029 (anonymous) says... New apartments bring jobs for construction workers, grounds crew, leasing agents, as well as a nice place for people to live (sometimes people who were homeless before).

I totally agree with your logic. It is true that if new apartments were being built, more people would be employed to build them.

However, is that a reason to build something we don't need? If there was an apartment shortage in Lawrence, I'd say go for it, but there are so many apartments and empty rental houses in Lawrence right just doesn't seem like prudent planning to say we should build more apartments (that will stand empty) so people can have jobs.

That's like saying we should build new roads when the potholes on the roads we already have are so empty. Or something like that.

feeble 8 years, 1 month ago

whaten areen youen talken abouten tentwoninen? Apartmentsen maken upen seventyen percenten of Lawrenceen. Alsoen howen areen theen homelessen oren recentlyen homelessen afforden branden newen apartmentsen?

password 8 years, 1 month ago

new apartments?
1029 : you gotta know that not all can afford them especially the homeless. i'm not homeless but there's no way i can afford what they would ask for rent.

Hawklight 8 years, 1 month ago

My name is David Sturm, and I spoke at the meeting toinght. I hope my efforts helped paved the way for Mr. Lupee and Mrs. Hulce to explain our neighborhood's position better; and to outlilne (however briefly) an alternate and BETTER use of the land.

I am also grateful to the members of the community who showed their support for our alternate use plan by signing the petition and/or showing up to voice their opinion tonight. The neighborhood, as Mrs. Hulce has illustrated during this process, had a feeling of desperation. Too many times the words, 'you won't get something better, so you should just agree to this' were said by the developers, city planners, and even tonight. The neighborhood finally shook off this desperation, and came up with a better plan.

I am grateful to the City Commission for their decision, and I applaud Mayor Chestnut and Commissioner Johnson for voicing their concerns and opinions; even to the point where they voted in favor for the rezoning. Democracy is predicated on public debate. In any democracy, there will be dissenting opinion. It is through debate that the best solutions may be found.

For us in the neighborhood, NOW is when the real work begins. We will continue to move the park project forward. I thank all of you for your support.

Godot 8 years, 1 month ago

This is a most excellent decision.

lithium45 8 years, 1 month ago

I live off of Jacob Avenue (a street near the proposed development). I was very happy to see the commissioners decision on rejecting more apartments. The apartments that were recently built over there are half empty to begin with and more apartments are simply not needed. Thank you for listening.

kansanbygrace 8 years, 1 month ago

No, in many places development must conform with the community's democratically expressed values. Lawrence is overbuilt, and has been so for at least 5-7 years. Those guys putting ever more cardboard boxes on good farmland should be exiled to Johnson County.

parrothead8 8 years, 1 month ago

Number_1_Grandma (anonymous) says... Only in Lawrence, can someone tell a property owner what they can and can't do with their land. I think I'll tell my neighbor (That I don't care for) that they need to make their property a park!

Actually, don't zoning laws exist in a lot of places? If there were no zoning laws, what would stop McDonald's from building next door to your house?

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 1 month ago

“I get that the neighborhood doesn’t want another apartment complex,” Commissioner Lance Johnson said. Johnson was joined by Mayor Rob Chestnut in supporting the rezoning request.

Hopefully the voters will remember that while Lance said he got the message that they didn't want another apartment complex in their neighborhood, he decided to ignore them.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 1 month ago

West side=Fights off apartments---East side=Fights off homeless shelters. Can you tell which side of the city has more money?

And it's not up the us if more apartments are needed. If someone ones to build them, let them.

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years, 1 month ago

I know what the data says about how over populated Lawrence is with appartments. I don't pretend to tout developers as experts on demographics, but the ones I have and continue to work with are smart. They are first and foremost business men. They know what sells and what doesn't. They are not going to invest in something that isn't going to work. So why do they keep building rentals and apartments? There is still a demand for rental property in Lawrence. Our demographics are changing, but the rental market is holding strong. The speculators that got burned, the banks that made stupid loans, the people who bought houses on a dream and 100% credit, have resulted in a market that makes it damn near impossible for people to buy right now. I find it backwards and ridiculous for neighbors to tell a private property owner what they can and can't do with their property. This would sound ridiculous if it was referencing a private homeowner but somehow it's acceptable when it's done to an investor or landlord. I see article after article about some businesses leaving Lawrence or some prospective development that has chosen to locate a new plant or warehouse elsewhere in the state. Then I see countless comments from citizens concerned about why Lawrence is continually losing new development. From my experiences, Lawrence is one of the least development friendly cities I know. The projects I work on in other jurisdictions are welcomed with open arms, only in Lawrence do we put you through the ringer in order to spend money in our town. Some development will go in on this corner, and it's not going to be a park. The city is broke as hell and talking about closing schools. There is no way they are going to pony up the millions it will take to develop a park on this property, however idealistic it is. It's a terrible location to have kids running across one of the busiest streets in town, not to mention other amenities already exist. The school has a full playground and is only a few blocks away and the soccer field/baseball field complex is a short drive across the bypass. Here's an idea David Sturm, why don't you go around your neighborhood and get everyone to donate $10,000 so you can buy this property. Then why don't you petition the city to change the zoning so you can put in a park. Then you can be in charge of collecting the annual revenues that will be required to upkeep this property. Sound idiotic? Why should the city do the same thing if it sounds idiotic to you and me. I think Mr. Stultz should build giant post modernist geodesic dome multi- family residences that would take no change of zoning. or maybe he could turn it into a BMX track, I heard there was HUGE interest in that. I bet the neighbors would love the sounds of motorcycles Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m.

d_prowess 8 years, 1 month ago

I think there are two separate issues being discussed on this thread. One is concerning where the city should have approved the zoning request or not. And the other is whether more apartments should be built in Lawrence.
As far a zoning, I tend to agree with the homeowners that since the land was not zoned for apartments originally (probably when they bought their houses), they should fight to keep it open to only additional single family development. However as far as apartment development in general, I agree that most developers are not idiots that like to throw money away. So if they have land that is zoned for apartments, they should be allowed to build them and let supply and demand dictate their success or failure.

Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 1 month ago

dear developers why don't you make affordable houses instead of aprtments ?

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 1 month ago

Developers buy land and market it to investors. Once they find someone who wants to build something on the land, the developer builds it, sells the land and building to the new owner, and the developer walks away.

Don't confuse developers with investors. The developer could care less whether an apartment complex is fully rented or not, as he's already made his money.

By the way, BMX is bicycle moto-cross; no motors allowed.

BigPrune 8 years, 1 month ago

But a bank doing the financing cares if a property is rented or not rented. They won't give someone a loan if the thing will be sitting empty. The developer buys the land to develop themselves. The investor buys the land and hires a contractor to develop a property - then the investor becomes the developer, or an investor buys land to sell at a later date for a profit if they have cash to gamble. With the way banks are tight on financing, more today than ever before, the thing would have to cash flow before they let someone borrow money to build it.

But, I agree, Lawrence is way over built in apartments and banks. Why doesn't the City allow this property to be built for retail? That would generate far more taxes than apartments, and the only thing out that way is Miller Mart. It would conserve fuel and automobile travel for area residents.

Duane Mellenbruch 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree regarding some retail space. Not many places to fuel up out that way. From the Clinton Pkwy Hy-Vee area, one has to go north on Kasold to 15th to the Kwik Shop station, or to South Iowa to the gas station by Best Buy, or to Wakarusa & Clinton Pkwy. Similarly, there isn't much in the way of fast food out that way, either. One has to drive to 23rd street, or to 6th street to find fast food from that area.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Any commissioner that is not concerned about economic impacts or concerned about what our markets will bear should not be making decisions on matters of economic growth. No elected official is so wise that he or she just knows what our economy will bear.

It doesn't matter if developers have done more than what is required by code or if is a very attractive proposal if the market is flooded there is no reason to approve. Empty buildings = increased costs to existing taxpayers.

Developers and cars are very expensive budget items to taxpayers. Just because speculators purchase property does not guarantee that construction will be allowed for it is NOT the duty of the taxpayer or local government to maximize profits for speculators. Speculating=gambling. Land speculators know these things.

I say tighter markets hold residential real estate value and generate more profit for retail storefront owners.

In retail all communities have only so many retail dollars available. Beyond the availability means dollars are spread thinner and thinner = economic displacement NOT economic growth.

Never be surprised that Lance Johnson or Mayor Chestnut are not concerned about whether or not the market will bear the load. Never mind that taxpayers do not need more residential housing that does not generate enough revenue to pay for itself = user fee and other tax increases. Lawrence does not need further expansion of the high tax dollar bedroom community for the sake of creating wealth for others.... no way jose'!

With increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Before yelling and screaming in support of more retail please understand that a flooded retail market also brings on increased user fees and other taxes. A flooded retail market cannot pay for itself either.

By Kim McClure

July 24, 2009

To the editor:

The July 14 editorial asks, “What’s downtown going to look like five, 10 or 15 years from now?” The answer can be known, and the picture is not pretty.


Lawrence has enough spending to support about 4.1 million square feet of retail space, but the City Commission permitted developers to expand the supply to over 5.5 million square feet.

Lawrence has too much retail space chasing too few vendors, which means that many stores go empty, especially in the older shopping centers like downtown.

The surplus development has stalled redevelopment plans downtown and has pushed the vacancy rates so high that disinvestment and blight now threaten. Investment, both public and private, is wasted. The taxpayers’ $8 million parking garage stands largely empty. The Hobbs-Taylor building and the 600 block of Massachusetts should be the top performing spaces in the community, but they have significant vacancies.

The recession has contributed to the problem, but had we properly managed our growth we would be much better off.

The developers’ short-term gain is now our long-term loss. Managed growth would have prevented much of the problem and would have protected and enhanced our downtown.

It will take many, many years to absorb this surplus space and, until this happens, it will be hard for downtown to compete. We can only look forward to many years of high vacancy and disinvestment. We need a City Commission that knows how to pace the growth of supply so as to protect our unique downtown.

McClure is from Lawrence

Stuart Evans 8 years, 1 month ago

how many vacant apartments are there in Lawrence? With home prices on a continuous rise, it is next to impossible for a single person (even with a decent income) to purchase a home. On top of that, I would say apartment demand must be high, because rent is going up yet again this year.

people don't want apartments built, and they don't want more than one family living in a house, and they don't want to subdivide Oread neighborhood homes into multi-family dwellings.

Is this just about the snobbishness of those who can afford to buy an overpriced home?

Danimal 8 years, 1 month ago

Did the City Commission actually decline a development project?! I can't think of the last time something like this was shot down. As someone that used to live about a block south of this proposed site, I think they made the right choice. There are already times during weekdays when Inverness is handling a lot of traffic, and adding hundreds of additional people to the neighborhood wouldn't help.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Consider that construction projects can be tax havens for those who have made serious bucks.

There is not a need for more apartments.

Remember property taxes are not collected on empty dwellings so guess who makes that up?

There are for rent signs all over town. When we moved to Lawrence making a decision on a rental had to be made quick or lose. Now there is a FLOOD of rentals and has been for several years. It is now safe to ponder a decision for their are many many many many many rentals to choose from. They are all over town just like empty retail spots.

BigPrune 8 years, 1 month ago

Merrill, Why not apply the overbuilt retail per capita formula to The Legends. That in itself kills the theory you keep rehashing. It was a theory years back now it's just a lie.

I rest my case.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 1 month ago

"Remember property taxes are not collected on empty dwellings"

I thought the land owner paid the taxes regardless of occupancy. If a house sits empty, there are still taxes on it. if a piece of land sits empty there are taxes. why wouldn't the same hold true for empty apartments?

geekyhost 8 years, 1 month ago

Haha! Look how much they buried the real lede in this story. The city commission approved a bid to get Google to build ultra high speed fiber in Lawrence.

Here's the site they set up: Fill it out if you want to nominate Lawrence.

And watch this post get yanked to further bury the story in 5...4...3...2...

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