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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lawsuit over expansion of Lake Alvamar dam resolved by sale of land to KU Athletics

June 15, 2011

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The sale of land that includes two baseball fields in southwestern Lawrence to Kansas Athletics Inc. has resolved a Douglas County lawsuit over expansion of a dam for Lake Alvamar.

Parties involved with the suit involving Wakarusa Watershed Joint District No. 35 and owners of Sport 2 Sport One LLC confirmed Tuesday the sale of land would help pave the way for expansion of the dam and would remove two fields just west of Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa Drive.

Kansas University’s athletic department was not involved in the lawsuit, but it owns the adjacent Jayhawk Tennis Center, 5200 Clinton Parkway, near the fields, which are called This Field and That Field.

Jim Marchiony, a KU associate athletic director, said the department and the watershed district would each pay $75,000. The title of the land goes to KU while the district will improve drainage to the watershed area and rehabilitate the dam.

“It’s in our best interest to ensure that that land is safe because, first of all, the Jayhawk Tennis Center is there now,” Marchiony said. “But also in the future if we want to expand the tennis facility, we want to be sure that the land is functional.”

The watershed district in January filed a petition in Douglas County District Court arguing the district was not required to pay owners of Sport 2 Sport to remove the two fields. The watershed district was required to expand the dam because it was 2 feet short of state requirements for serving an area considered to be under a “high hazard” flood control classification.

For more than three years, a coalition of local, state and federal officials worked with the watershed district and neighboring property owners, who live north of Clinton Parkway, to come up with about $2.2 million to expand the dam, also known as the Yankee Tank Dam, 6 feet at the top and at the foot of it.

When the dam was initially constructed in 1973 agricultural land surrounded it, but now that Lawrence has expanded to the west. A major flood could cause damage to the developed area, including Clinton Parkway and the Kansas Highway 10 bypass. The Youth Sports Complex facilities are also nearby. The district had drained the lake in the past, but state officials said a major flood could still damage infrastructure south of the lake, including streets and roads.

Mark Emert, an attorney representing Sport 2 Sport, including managing partner Roger Morningstar, said his clients were satisfied with the outcome.

“That was a piece of land that Sport 2 Sport was happy to operate for a number of years,” Emert said. “But with the changes in the structure of that dam, it was going to render the use of property meaningless for what we wanted to do with it.”

John Hamilton, the attorney for the watershed district, said officials were still working on acquiring easements from neighboring property owners. He said the project won’t effect existing structures. The district was hoping to wrap that process up by mid-August because it has a September deadline to accept a federal allocation for $1 million to assist with the project.

Dick Stuntz, a district board member and president of Alvamar Inc., said Tuesday that 30 adjoining landowners had voluntarily chosen to become part of a benefit district and that district officials were still working to acquire small sections of easement from about 40 landowners primarily on the northeast and northwest sides of the lake. He said because of the short timeline, the district would likely seek eminent domain soon if property owners don’t respond to requests.

Many large, luxurious houses line the hilltops around much of the lake. The lake does not have public access.

“That’s a discussion for another day,” Stuntz said.

Douglas County officials said the public interest in improvement of the dam comes from the protection of the nearby highways and infrastructure from a major flood. The state estimated Clinton Parkway and K-10 could sustain $8 million each in damage in a major flood.

“The public interest was primarily to protect infrastructure and provide flood control,” County Commissioner Jim Flory said.

Comments

hujiko 2 years, 10 months ago

Additional info from over two years ago, back then the reaction was a tad bit fierce:

Why hasn't this recent article caused similar opposition?

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Joe Hyde 2 years, 10 months ago

If Kansas Athletics, Inc. has just purchased the land below Yankee Tank dam, and if the University of Kansas has now become the title holder of the land, this means that henceforth no state taxes will be paid on that parcel. (The state doesn't tax itself.)

And if over $2 million is needed to upgrade the dam for the purpose of improving the public safety -- most of that upgrade money being public funds (state and federal) -- then to me it seems the right thing to do is for the state of Kansas to exercise its eminent domain powers by purchasing the entire lake outright.

The purchase could involve buying a wide strip of shoreline easement from the existing property owners who have houses surrounding the lake. A tall privacy/security fence could be installed all the way around the lake's expanded perimeter. Between the fence and the lake shore a paved or gravel trail could be constructed. The only openings through this fence would be for a public parking area so that anglers, walkers, cyclists, etc. could enjoy access to the lake. The state of Kansas could then, if it wished, lease the lake property to the city of Lawrence; the Parks & Recreation Dept. could take care of maintenance, with Lawrence PD handling security.

The immediate benefit of this would be a reduction in personal property taxes for the families that own homes surrounding the lake. By the state buying expanded easement acreage around the lake, each homeowner would realize a square footage reduction in their property, thus the tax reduction.

If the state bought Yankee Tank lake, Kansas Wildlife & Parks could assume overall management of its environmental quality in terms of wildlife habitat. That would let the state improve not only the watershed but also there could be modifications made to the lake bed and shoreline that would greatly boost the lake's fishery.

The bottom line, as many posters above have commented, is that so much public money is needed to upgrade this lake. That being the case, the public ought to enjoy access to the lake. The public will enjoy the biggest bang for its bucks if the state buys the lake and improves its aquatic habitat, then leases the lake to the city of Lawrence for public recreation purposes.

With another two vertical feet of water in Yankee Tank, with installation of structure for fish habitat, the quality of public fishing there will be consistently good for decades to come.

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hujiko 2 years, 10 months ago

This is absolutely unnecessary.

The dam was constructed for flood control and always had water behind it up until it was deemed too short to be safe in case of a major flood. When it was drained, the homeowners in the area were outraged because they viewed the remaining mudflat as a blight. Now they are going to spend taxpayer money in order for the dam to be raised, all so that water will be allowed to stand again as it did before.

Without water already behind it, the dam is perfectly capable of controlling floodwaters, but if water is already standing, that's when it poses a risk. This is only a ploy by the landowners to raise their property values, all on the backs of taxpayers. Aesthetics be damned, this is an utter waste of resources because the flood control function is already there.

These few well-to-do homeowners will reap all the benefits by once again having their picturesque view, and the public will not be allowed to utilize the reservoir.

Heck no.

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Andini 2 years, 10 months ago

I love reading an article with Dick Stuntz in it.

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rockchalker52 2 years, 10 months ago

Seems like it needs doing. What do I care if there's no public access? What am I going to do when I get there?

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prospector 2 years, 10 months ago

There is no such thing as flood control and it is a lie to say this will prevent flooding. Build in a flood prone area, expect a flood.

Waste

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clovis_sangrail 2 years, 10 months ago

"He said the project won’t effect existing structures."

Probably won't affect them much, either.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 10 months ago

The fact that there isn't public access already should also be called into question.

This appears to be a taxpayer funded perk for the neighborhood.

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irvan moore 2 years, 10 months ago

+1, it's to late once it's approved, make them allow public access before approving any part of it.

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Keith 2 years, 10 months ago

"Many large, luxurious houses line the hilltops around much of the lake. The lake does not have public access.

“That’s a discussion for another day,” Stuntz said."

That discussion needs to happen sooner rather than later. We (Douglas County and Lawrence) are going to be on the hook for a large portion of this cost. Spending public money on this should require public access.

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