News and notes from around town:
• Expect an interesting ruling on snow shoveling to come out of Lawrence City Hall today. The city’s snow shoveling ordinance requires snow and ice to be removed from public sidewalks within 48 hours following the end of a winter event. For this snowstorm, that means by 8 a.m. on Saturday. That brings up the question of whether the city will have inspectors working on Saturday to determine if sidewalks have been shoveled. The city certainly pays a lot of overtime to city employees to clear the streets of snow, but it may be a different matter when it comes to inspecting sidewalks. Or perhaps the city will just say, “Maybe we will, maybe we won’t.” That would force sidewalk scofflaws to ask themselves just how lucky they feel.
UPDATE: The city has confirmed that it won’t have inspectors out this weekend to determine whether sidewalks have been shoveled by 8 a.m. Saturday. Instead, the city will begin inspections on Monday, even though that is about 48 hours longer than the ordinance allows sidewalks to be covered. The city also noted that Mother Nature may make the issue moot. If significant snowfall occurs between now and Saturday, the ordinance would give residents an additional 48 hours to clear the sidewalks anyway. One note, though, the city doesn’t consider snow flurries to be significant snowfall.
• The city of Eudora and the Eudora school district are trying to catch the attention of Lawrence developers and others. They have what may be a pretty enticing carrot: 15 acres of property along a busy Kansas Highway 10 interchange. The city and school district are seeking proposals to redevelop the site of the former Nottingham Elementary and the district’s former football stadium, which are located on Eudora’s Church Street interchange on K-10.
The city and school district hope that a successful retail development can be located on the site. Eudora City Administrator John Harrenstein said a study found Eudora is losing at least $7 million of retail sales a year to other communities. He said if a development could capture $4 million to $5 million of those lost sales, it would be a great boost to the Eudora economy. But the city and the school district will be open to proposals other than retail development.
“I think the city and the school district both understand the market will dictate what goes on that piece of property,” Harrenstein said. “We want to leave it to the experts to tell us what will be successful on that spot.”
The property — adjacent to the city’s new recreation center and across the street from the city’s grocery store, Dairy Queen, Kwik Shop and other commercial businesses — is located on what is generally considered the busiest corner in Eudora. But Harrenstein said he thinks the right type of development could also attract commuters off K-10.
The city is seeking proposals by March 15. Then the school district, which owns the property, will have to decide if an acceptable purchase price has been proposed. At that point, city leaders will have to determine if the project meets planning guidelines, and also deal with any incentives requests that may come with the proposal.
“We haven’t identified any specific incentives, but we understand in this economic environment developers likely will be requesting them,” Harrenstein said. “The city council is open to discussing them.”
• Put 2010 down as another year of decline for the Lawrence retail industry, at least according to sales tax statistics. The city recently received its December sales tax payment, and the numbers are down for both the month and the year. The numbers indicate retail sales in Lawrence were down by about 1.2 percent in 2010. The December report — which actually measures sales made from late October to mid November — show sales during that holiday shopping period were down by 2.2 percent. The January report, which should be out in a few weeks, will measure the critical late November to mid-December shopping season, and should give a glimpse at what type of holiday season retailers had.
For those of you who care about the technical details, here are the numbers: The city collected $20.21 million in sales taxes generated from the countywide and citywide 1 percent sales taxes in 2010. In 2009, the total was $20.55 million. The city also collected about $6.6 million from the infrastructure and transit sales taxes that voters approved in 2009. But those totals weren’t included in the 2010 vs 2009 comparison that I did because the transit and infrastructure taxes weren’t collected for a full year in 2009.