Archive for Friday, April 8, 2011

Town Talk: Cabin development slated for south of Lawrence; city looks at higher-tech trash truck; 10 years of the T

April 8, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• Lawrence, Kansas as a resort town — it is an idea that evidently has some appeal. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department has received another application to rezone rural Douglas County property to allow “rural tourism” uses. Officials with Treanor Architects have filed a request to rezone 208 acres surrounding a watershed lake just off of U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence. According to the paperwork, resort may not be exactly the right word to describe the project but it definitely would have the corporate retreat type of feel. Plans call for cabins around the lake, a couple of vineyards, horse stables and riding area, and a lodge/conference center. The plans indicated the development at 778 E. 1300 Road would be built in multiple phases, and probably would begin with just a couple of cabins. The rest of the work would come in future phases.

In addition to Lawrence-based Treanor, the documents also indicate that members of Doug Compton’s First Management Inc. are involved with the project, which is being dubbed Sadies Lake. Attempts to reach officials with Treanor and First Management weren’t immediately successful.

This project is in addition to one previously approved for a rural area northwest of Lawrence. Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel previously won approval to build cabins, a lodge/conference center and other outdoor amenities on property just west of the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. That project got put on the back burner for awhile because Fritzel switched gears and sold part of the property to Berry Plastics to build its massive warehouse, after other sites near the interchange got tied up in litigation. Berry is expected to begin work on the 675,000-square-foot warehouse soon, but it is not expected to stop the resort project from moving forward. Lawrence architect Paul Werner told me the project is still very much alive, and now that the warehouse project will be bringing utilities closer to the site, work on a few cabins may begin relatively soon.

So, if you are keeping track, two of Lawrence’s larger developers are now both pursuing cabin/lodge projects. In perhaps another sign that great minds think alike, both also have similar mixed-use, multistory downtown buildings in their sights. Compton already is building one at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, and Fritzel has expressed an interest in building one at Ninth and Vermont streets. Fritzel’s project still has a way to go before it becomes reality, though. Werner, who also is working on that project, said he’s still reaching out to property owners near the Ninth and Vermont site to get more feedback. City commissioners also will have several decisions to make on that project, because the proposed site currently is a city-owned parking lot.

• Some neighborhoods may start seeing a different type of trash truck going down their streets. City Hall officials confirmed they are in the process of taking bids for a new type of trash truck that would allow the city to reduce the size of its trash-truck crew from three workers to two. The truck would have special side lifts that would allow up to four plastic garbage carts to be emptied at once. It also is a low to the ground truck that would allow the driver to get in and out more easily and thus, theoretically, allow for the size of the crew to be reduced by one person. In addition, the truck would be equipped so that it could be driven from either the right or left seat, also making it easier to operate with a two-person crew.

The city is planning to buy just one of the trucks to see how it works. The city’s new Solid Waste Task Force will be talking about truck issues, so the city doesn’t want to commit to adding a new fleet of vehicles before that process is complete. The new truck is expected to cost about $230,000, which is a bit more than the $160,000 price tag for a standard trash truck. If the city does end up buying the vehicle, it probably wouldn’t be ready for use for another eight to nine months.

• The city is holding a bit of a birthday bash for Lawrence’s public transit system. The T is now in its 10th year, and the city is giving away several items — such as reusable shopping bags, drink containers and bus pass holders — to riders today. City workers will be out from 11 a.m. to 1 pm. and also from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at Ninth and New Hampshire streets and 31st and Iowa streets. The service also will be offering free rides to everybody on April 16 as part of the city’s Earth Day Celebration.

The T began its first day of service on Dec. 16, 2000, on a very snowy and icy day. Here’s a look at how ridership on the T has grown over the years:

• 2001: 155,737 one-way trips

• 2002: 234,743 one-way trips

• 2003: 267,82 one-way trips

• 2004: 327,780 one-way trips

• 2005: 387,790 one-way trips

• 2006: 421,864 one-way trips

• 2007: 388,325 one-way trips

• 2008: 387,938 one-way trips

• 2009: 499,017 one-way trips

• 2010: 620,592 one-way trips

As you can see, there has been a big jump over the last two years, and that is because the city started running coordinated routes with the KU bus system. In particular, the city also started letting KU students and faculty with proper ID ride the city buses for free. City residents who have a T bus pass also can ride KU buses for free. The result has been a spike in ridership. But it is also worth noting that the number of people who pay a fare to ride the bus has decreased during the last two years. Farebox revenue for the T was $165,995 in 2010, down from $201,264 in 2008. City officials are hopeful that the decline in farebox revenue will stop, but they have said that the increased ridership that has come from the cooperation program with KU has been a good trade-off.

The city gets large amounts of federal dollars to fund the transit system (in addition to local sales taxes), and some of the federal funding is based upon ridership numbers. The T had expenses of about $2.5 million in 2010.


50YearResident 6 years, 9 months ago

Free rides to keep numbers up so Feds will pay more. Revenue down because od lack of paid riders. Losses mount. What is next? Seems like "cooking the books".

MyName 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't think there's anything weird going on. The $35k difference probably comes from KU students who used to have to pay to ride the T (in 2008) and no longer had to in 2010. They've also gained >232,000 rides per year (or about 600 per day) at a cost of $95 per day. It's not a bad tradeoff, especially since the fare boxes only account for between 6-10% of revenue.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

That's the problem.

Good public transportation systems get more like 50% of revenue from fare box collection - the fact that we get so little shows the system isn't designed well and is underutilized.

matchbox81 6 years, 9 months ago

Um...the very best most midwest transit agencies can hope for is around 20% of operation costs to be covered by the farebox, and that's for a heavily urban system like in Kansas City, Missouri.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

I'd have to look at the research again, but about 50% is the number I recall from last time I did that.

If the midwest is significantly worse than that, I'd have to ask why that is.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 9 months ago

The last time I did the math, the T cost the taxpayer over $7 per one way trip. I doubt the system is any better now, but t activists don't seem to mind an ineffective system.

hujiko 6 years, 9 months ago

Dear Fritzel and Co: Hell no, we don't need another one of your blights in this town.

Jacks_Smirking_Revenge 6 years, 9 months ago

Because another First Managment blight is so much better? Or are you just saying no to developers in general?

Personally I can't wait until these developers get into theme parks. Could you imagine the arms race between Compton and Fritzel on who can build the better roller coaster? Or water park? Or zoo (although Compton has an edge since he's already got zebras)? All are about as reasonable as rural retreat resorts...

hujiko 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't have a problem with developers, just that currently there are too many businesses closing or closed to warrant extra development. Look at the empty store fronts along Mass, priority number one should be to fill those spaces, not building monuments of self-satisfaction.

Dan Blomgren 6 years, 9 months ago

What 'blight' might that be? Every development they have done (and this goes for Compton as well) have added beauty and tax revenue to this city. I am so tired of people complaining about how awful these two developers are (More so with Compton, but my point is the same) when every one of their projects have been beneficial to this city. May I ask what have you ever done for this city? Stop knocking the hard efforts of others if you are not capable or willing to do so yourself.

hujiko 6 years, 9 months ago

The Oread is a blight, don't try arguing otherwise. It looks like total s**t, and the Fritzel's deceived the neighborhood and city to get their way with it.

"May I ask what have you ever done for this city?" I have enjoyed it as it is. I haven't ever gone into a historic district with the idea of building some atrocious looking fortress to mimic historic architecture and cater to an upscale market that does not reside in the immediate area. I have a fleeting suspicion that you are in some way associated with Compton or Fritzel so you must have a bias toward them. I honestly don't get why you think I'm "knocking the hard efforts of others", if that was the best effort they could generate then they probably shouldn't have built the Oread in the first place. It's laughable how ugly that building is.

Now, what have YOU done for the city.

blindrabbit 6 years, 9 months ago

With all these resorts going in around Lawrence; what about a revival of the old Sycamore Hollow Nudist Camp. We all miss Donna from the past, maybe she'll make a return visit with her twins.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence a tourist trap ....... I don't think so.

Is there a market for this? Is there a market for floods of senior housing?

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we might not be in a budget crunch. But 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(city or county).

No tax dollars should be spent on these projects that are about speculating!!!!

Build on the education market, art markets and bike racing markets not illusions.

Kontum1972 6 years, 9 months ago

politics....and god 2 at the capital.... the city got rid of wakarusa......and the city morons wondered why the had a budget shortfall ....idiots... its all going to arkansas...

William McCauley 6 years, 9 months ago

I would have to agree with you, the city leaders are to stupid to think out of the box and look to communities like Telluride Co. who not only welcome these type of concerts, they built the venue around a city park and camping area, granted they have mountains to look at while the music plays, but the point is, you can walk to any place in town from the venue and it's main reason is to draw people in the off season to town to spend money, and lot's of it..... and they do come and they do spend.... big time!

Larryville is to damn stupid to dream up anything like that, oh well we got bike races and peddle cabs.

Clark Coan 6 years, 9 months ago

Aren't watershed lakes open to the public?

irvan moore 6 years, 9 months ago

will we have to buold a parking lot by the lake for their employees?

Bursting 6 years, 9 months ago

Wakarusa sure would be nice, well at least we have Festy Fest on the up and up, if the media doesn't screw it over again that is.... Next month keep your calendars open, a local music festival awaits!

matchbox81 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm not sure if its "pork", if it allows for the trash system to operate with lower labor and fuel costs. There is the problem that there's a discentive for customers to use the city trash cans (a charge of $2 or $3 a month, when you can buy a trashcan for $20), so any automated loading feature of the trash truck will only work for a percentage of customers. Plus, it is puzzling that the city is buying a new "experiment" truck while in the process of studying whether or not to have a city-run trash service at all. Maybe one of the existing trash trucks needed to be replaced....

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