Town Talk: Commissioner wants to change name of 11th Street to honor Fambrough; homeless shelter plans to move by early summer; apartment plan creates tension, accusations
News and notes from around town:
• Change to the coaching staff may not be the only thing coming to Kansas University’s Memorial Stadium. A new effort is underway to have the portion of 11th Street that runs along the north edge of the stadium named in honor of former KU coach Don Fambrough.
City Commissioner Hugh Carter says that he wants the commission to consider the name change sometime in January. Fambrough, who coached the KU football team during two different stints, died in September. Several community members in past years tried to have a portion of Missouri Street — Fambrough famously hated Missouri — renamed in his honor.
But concern over the number of addresses that would have to be changed on Missouri Street has stopped that proposal from moving forward. Now, the idea is to rename 11th Street between Mississippi Street and West Campus Road. City officials believe there are only a handful of addresses that would need to be changed.
“He got fired twice here, but he still stayed in this community and was a great ambassador for KU and the city,” said Carter.
Carter said the street could take one of several names, such as Fambrough Street, Fambrough Avenue, Fambrough Lane, or Fambrough Drive. (The way the last couple of seasons have gone, any positive drive for the home team would be appreciated.) But Carter said the city should steer clear of Fambrough Way. The university currently is planning to name a stretch of a campus street as Fambrough Way, Carter said.
It will be interesting to see if a street named after Fambrough requires any special traffic ordinances. For example, will it be legal to turn off Fambrough Drive onto adjacent Missouri Street? I can’t think the old coach would like that much. What would be an appropriate fine? Perhaps the driver will be sentenced to serve time as an also-ran football program in the SEC. Oh, wait. It looks like that slot already has been filled.
• Folks interested in when the Lawrence Community Shelter will move out of its downtown location should mark this summer on their calendars.
Shelter leaders have confirmed that their contract to purchase a vacant warehouse building near the Douglas County Jail has been executed without a hitch. John Tacha, one of the leaders of the fundraising campaign for the shelter, said the organization raised enough money to pay cash for the building. (I did forget to confirm the purchase price, but it previously had been set at $2.06 million, or about $1 million over the appraised value set by the county.)
Tacha said the shelter now is working to have architects draw up construction plans for the renovation. Construction is expected to start in February.
“Hopefully before it gets hot this summer, we’ll be able to make the move,” Tacha said.
Work at the facility will include interior renovations to add a commercial kitchen — the facility will serve three meals per day — preparation of sleeping areas, privacy rooms, and an area where various agencies and a nursing program run by Baker University will be able to provide care and services. A large portion of the building also will be converted into space where shelter guests can do contract jobs — everything from stuffing envelopes to light assembly work — for area companies.
City officials also will have some work to do before the shelter opens in the summer. Tacha told city commissioners that he was “going to hold them to their promise” to provide bus service to the site. City commissioners on Tuesday indicated that was still their plan.
• Speaking of circling dates, the development community may circle and point back to Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting when it wants to argue that the city government is — this may be the most dreaded phrase at City Hall — “business unfriendly.”
As we reported, commissioners at Tuesday night’s meeting rejected a controversial plan to build more apartments near Clinton Parkway and Crossgate Drive. It ended up being a messy process, and basically a $50,000 “never-mind moment” for one local developer.
Here’s the rundown: Neighbors near the site have felt like for years that they’ve gotten a raw deal. Several years ago the area between Inverness and Crossgate was planned to be a retirement community. Many residents bought their homes thinking they were going to be living next to something like Brandon Woods, not one of the larger student apartment areas in the community.
But the retirement project fell apart before it ever got going, and the area kind of developed in a piecemeal fashion. City commissioners, though, decided they wanted to put an end to that. So in September, the city approved an official document called the Inverness Park District Plan. It spelled out how the remaining vacant pieces of ground in the area should be developed.
In the case of the piece of ground in question Tuesday night, it got really specific. The plan mentions the five-acres of undeveloped property at the intersection of Clinton Parkway and Crossgate. The plans calls for the area to become high-density residential development in the future. The plan lists three requirements that should be met before the vacant land is allowed to development as apartment uses. The zoning should be RM24, the size of the apartment buildings should be limited to two stories, and the apartments should be limited to one-bedroom units.
The plan that was brought forward by Lawrence developer Tim Stultz proposed to do all three. In September, all five of the current commissioners voted for the Inverness Park Plan. But on Tuesday, three of them voted against Stultz’s proposal that attempted to implement the plan. Several of the commissioners — Cromwell, Amyx and Schumm voted against the development on Tuesday — expressed surprise that the Inverness Park Plan called for the new apartment development.
But that brought a bit of rebuke from Commissioner Hugh Carter, who supported the apartment project. He read the language of the plan back to his fellow commissioners, and said he notice the language when he read the plan prior to voting for it in September. He also pulled a copy of the minutes of the September City Commission meeting, which noted that a staff member highlighted to the commission that a rezoning request likely would be coming forward for the vacant piece of ground.
“I’m concerned that we’re sending the message that we’re wishy-washy on our planning,” Carter said to fellow commissioners. “It feels like we didn’t know what we were voting on (in September) and that just can’t happen going forward.”
That comment caused some fellow commissioners to bristle, and Commissioner Mike Amyx said he disagreed with that assessment.
Stultz, meanwhile, bristled at Tuesday’s action. He did not speak during Tuesday’s meeting, but I caught up with him as he was leaving City Hall. He confirmed to me that he had spent more than $50,000 preparing the apartment plans to present to city commissioners, and did so because he believed the Inverness Park Plan made it clear that the development is what commissioners envisioned for the area.
“It is just disappointing when you have an approved plan and then it is not followed,” Stultz said. “The city’s transparency, I think, was in question here tonight. I was as transparent as I could be throughout the entire process. I was very upfront with everybody during the entire planning process that I wanted to seek a rezoning and a new site plan for the property.”
Neighbors — who didn’t speak out against the Inverness Park Plan in September — likely aren’t feeling sorry for Stultz. They feel like they’ve been on the short end of a City Hall equation several times before.
What’s interesting, though, is that they may end up feeling that way again. Despite rejecting the apartment proposal on Tuesday, commissioners took no action to change the wording in the Inverness Park Plan that calls for the apartment project to be built. That means that the idea of more apartments on that corner is still the official position of the city’s Planning Department. Developers will be free to file the same plans for that corner again in future years.