The effort to convert the Farmers Turnpike area into a new industrial and business zone for the community continued Tuesday night at Lawrence City Hall.
The fight from neighbors appears to be continuing as well.
City commissioners at their weekly meeting agreed to rezone 51 acres of property about one mile east of the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike to allow for heavy industrial uses in the future.
Commissioners approved the rezoning on a 4-1 vote over the objection of several neighbors who said the 20 to 40 homes in the general area would be negatively impacted by the zoning. Commissioner Aron Cromwell voted against rezoning.
But city commissioners made it clear they felt the Farmers Turnpike area northwest of Lawrence was destined to change.
“There is a glowing point here,” Commissioner Lance Johnson said. “It is K-10 and I-70. This is where they come together, and it is the best location in Douglas County and the city of Lawrence to do this type of development. I’m sorry it affects the 40 or so residents, but I don’t know how it can make more sense than to put it right here.”
A development group led by Duane and Steve Schwada sought the rezoning for the southwest corner of the Farmers Turnpike and E 1000 Road. The group doesn’t yet have a tenant for the site but is seeking the city’s heaviest industrial zoning for the property to market it to a variety of businesses that want to be located along the I-70 corridor.
Neighbors told commissioners they were open to a compromise. Ron Schneider, an attorney for the neighborhood group, said area residents could live with the property being rezoned to a less intense industrial zoning category.
But a majority of commissioners balked at the idea because they said it would create too much uncertainty about what type of industrial uses would be allowed at the site.
Neighbors afterwards said they were disappointed in the city’s decision and will consider filing a legal appeal in Douglas County District Court. Several of the neighbors were part of a group that previously filed a lawsuit related to 155 acres of industrial property directly north of the Lecompton interchange, which remains under appeal.
“The quickest way to move forward on this project was to reach a compromise with the neighbors, and the city just wasn’t willing to do that,” said Dave Ross, president of the Scenic Riverway Community Association.
Tuesday’s rezoning request was the third in about the last year to add industrial zoning to the area near the Lecompton interchange. In addition to the 51-acre and the 155-acre sites, a site just west of the Lecompton interchange recently was rezoned for a project to build a major new warehouse for Berry Plastics. That project has received less opposition from neighbors, but it also asked for less intense industrial zoning than the other two sites.