News and notes from around town:
• It will be out with the dancing and in with the tacos. The longtime dance studio and reception hall Camelot II at 1117 Mass. has closed. Taking its place will be a new regional Mexican restaurant chain. Work is underway to convert the space — which is right across the street from the Douglas County Courthouse — into a Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. John Records, his wife, Linda, and two of their children are owners of the area franchise for the company, which has a fairly big presence in Texas and is working its way north. But the restaurant isn’t a traditional Tex-Mex joint. Instead, it considers its menu “Baja-style fresh Mex.”
That will mean fish tacos, shrimp tacos, veggie tacos, Tempura-fried dishes and a special garlic sauce.
“We think that will help set us apart from other Mexican eateries,” Records said. “It is not every place that your taco is full of cilantro and feta cheese.”
The place also will mean Mexican breakfast. The restaurant will open at 7 a.m. to serve both breakfast burritos and breakfast tacos. On Fridays and Saturdays, the business also will stay open until 3 a.m. to get the late-night crowd.
Records hopes to have the restaurant open by the end of August.
• The new restaurant, however, will cause dancing fans to look elsewhere. The Camelot II ballroom had been in Downtown Lawrence longer than you perhaps think. Owner Wade Qanadil told me that he’s had the building as a dance school for about 19 years. The business taught all types of ballroom dance classes, and also rented itself out for martial arts instruction, exercise classes, folk dancing clubs and other events that needed a wide open indoor space. But Qanadil also owns a large facility — Camelot — in Overland Park, and he said activity at the Lawrence location just wasn’t keeping up.
“I basically just decided to concentrate on my business here,” said Qanadil, who continues to own the Lawrence building.
• Those of you rooting against a rate increase for your water and sewer bills had a bad weekend. Crews in the city’s water department were hustling over the weekend as water levels rose dramatically on the Kansas River. The debris that comes with rising water on the Kaw ended up plugging the main water intake for the Kaw Water Treatment plant near Burcham Park. Traditionally, the plant has had a secondary water intake, but that intake has been damaged for several years and is no longer operable. This weekend’s event, therefore, meant that the entire Kaw Plant had to be shut down. City crews worked hard to get additional capacity up and running at the Clinton Water Treatment Plant so that facility could supply water to the entire city. City Manager David Corliss said the operation was successful and city residents didn’t have any disruption in water service, nor did water pressure ever drop low enough to endanger the city’s fire protection system.
But Corliss also told me that he plans on recommending to city commissioners that the 2013 budget include funding to fix the secondary intake at the Kaw Plant. But that multi-million dollar project will require a rate increase. The project has been on a list of proposed improvements for several years, but past city commissions have been reluctant to increase water rates to the degree necessary to fund the project. Last year, city staff member recommended an increase that would have fixed the intake, but city commissioners opted for no rate increase for either water or sewer fees due to the tight economy. We’ll see what this new commission does.
As for the Kaw Plant today, the debris has been cleared and it is back online. It is not believed that the debris did any damage to the plant’s one remaining intake, but as Corliss noted, the intake is kind of tough to see.
• If you are the type of person who spends a lot of time thinking about the city’s planning documents, first of all, my condolences. But Tuesday’s City Commission meeting had a roomful of such people, and one comment at that meeting got a lot of people’s attention. The comment was that it is time for the city and the county to start over with a new comprehensive plan. Former City Commissioner Rob Chestnut showed up at the meeting to tell commissioners that he thought the time was quickly approaching to replace Horizon 2020, the city and county’s top planning document.
He said the document is becoming badly outdated. The plan defines areas of the county called “urban growth areas.” Those are the areas where urban-style development are likely to happen. But those are becoming less relevant. He pointed to the recent decision by the County Commission to allow Berry Plastics to build a 675,000-square-foot warehouse and printing plant outside of the urban growth area. Such a development is not exactly rural. He also pointed out that parts of Horizon 2020 still call for the area around the Lawrence Municipal Airport to become a major industrial center. But that doesn’t square with other parts of the plan that call for protecting prime farmland and limiting development in flood-prone areas. The bottomline, Chestnut said, is that the plan is contradicting itself in many places now. He thinks that is a sign of age, and the best course would be to start anew.
That would be a major process. I covered the creation of Horizon 2020 back in the early 1990s, and it was a multi-year process of contentious meetings on topics that most ordinary people had no comprehension of. But, true to our heritage, we argued about it. In fact, the goal was to have a new comprehensive plan in place before 1995, since the old plan was titled Plan ’95. But we argued about the provisions of Horizon 2020 so much that none of the government agencies met the 1995 deadline. The Planning Commission didn’t approve the document until May 1996. The City Commission didn’t approve it until January 1997. And the County Commission really took its time and didn’t approve it until May 1998. But here is the key date to remember. Planners started working on drafting Horizon 2020 in 1992. In other words, it took them six years to develop this one plan.