Archive for Friday, April 6, 2012

Town Talk: City delays vote on Ninth and New Hampshire hotel/apartment project again; city to tackle issue of longterm R.V. campers near South Park; Lawrence chosen as Midwest retirement ‘haven’

April 6, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Sometimes what doesn’t happen at Lawrence City Hall can be as interesting as what does. What won’t happen this week is a key vote on a proposed multi-story hotel and apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

For the second time since late March, city commissioners are delaying a public hearing and vote on the controversial project. The hearing and vote now are scheduled for April 24. As you likely remember, the project — proposed by local businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — has drawn stiff opposition from several neighbors who say the building is too tall and too massive to be adjacent to the historic neighborhood along Rhode Island Street. On two occasions, the city’s Historic Resources Commission has agreed with that assessment.

So, enter city commissioners into the fray. The developers have appealed the ruling of the HRC to the City Commission, and I get the sense that some city commissioners are becoming less enthused by the minute to be the arbitrator of this issue.

The appeal has been scheduled for weeks now, but hasn’t happened, in part, because the city is still waiting for a key financial report related to the project. The city has hired an outside consulting firm to study whether the project requires a host of requested financial incentives in order to be financially feasible.

I’ve been told by one key commissioner (when there are only five, they’re all kind of key) that the report’s results will be a particularly important part of his decision-making process.

But I think some commissioners want the report to go beyond reviewing the feasibility of the financial incentives — a special 1 percent sales tax and a new TIF district are the major requested incentives. Instead, I think some commissioners want the report to weigh in on whether the combination hotel/apartment project must be as physically large as proposed in order to be financially feasible. The development group has said it has made the building as small as possible while still being feasible. Some commissioners are going to want outside proof of that.

I haven’t gotten a good sense from all five commissioners about where they stand on this issue, but I can tell you I have heard pretty clearly from two who are concerned about the height and mass of the building.

A few weeks ago, I would have told you the chances of the project winning City Commission approval were pretty good. I can still see scenarios where it will, but I think the margin of error for the development group is shrinking.

Right or wrong, one commissioner also told me he thinks the development group would now consider moving the project across Ninth Street, to the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire, which is not adjacent to a residential neighborhood. The development group has never said anything like that publicly, but there had been a rumor that Compton was in some real estate discussions with Black Hills Energy, which currently owns much of that corner. Neither party confirmed those discussions, but they also didn’t do much to quash the rumor either.

To top it off, I think city commissioners are getting the feeling that this issue ultimately won’t be settled at City Hall. The neighborhood group has hired Lawrence attorney Ronald Schneider. He’s the attorney who has successfully represented neighbors near the Lecompton interchange who are concerned about heavy industrial zoning in that area. As one commissioner told me: “There’s going to be a lawsuit on this either way.”

City Hall officials, I’m told, have arranged for a court reporter to be present on April 24 to record every word of the city’s deliberations on the matter.

• Well from a multimillion-dollar hotel to a slightly different type of lodging accommodation — recreational vehicles parked along Massachusetts Street. City commissioners are set to talk about the two R.V.s that day-after-day park in the on-street parking spaces on the west side of Massachusetts Street near South Park.

At their Tuesday meeting, commissioners will consider approving an ordinance that prohibits the parking of any camper, travel trailer, or recreational vehicle on the parts of Massachusetts, Vermont or South Park streets that are near South Park.

Violation comes with a $50 fine per day, and after the second violation, the city can tow the vehicles.

As we reported back in November, two Lawrence men basically had set up residence in the parking spaces along Massachusetts Street.

One of the men is Michael Tanner, a local street musician who has been in several disagreements with the City Commission. Most notably, he was the fellow who constructed a homeless camp near the Kansas River, just north of the Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence. City officials razed that camp several years ago, and Tanner has said many times that he has never forgiven the city for that.

So, what fireworks we lost with postponement of the Ninth and New Hampshire project likely will be replaced by this one.

In a memo to commissioners, city staffers said they have received several phone calls recently regarding the health and safety risks posed by the parking of the vehicles, although the city doesn’t get too specific about what those risks are.

The area near South Park soon will be getting more traffic, and likely more demand for parking. The administrative offices for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department are slated to move in the former South Park Recreation Center in early May.

• I always suspected we were living in a haven of something. Come to find out, it is a Midwest retirement haven. At least according to the folks from Where to Retire magazine, Lawrence is one of eight “Dynamic Heartland Havens.”

Lawrence will be featured in the magazine’s May/June issue, which hits newsstands on April 17. Lawrence made the list with these other cities: Branson, Mo.; Madison, Wis.; Woodstock, Ill.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Bellevue, Neb.; Ames, Iowa; and Bloomington, Ind.

Several in the city will be grateful for the recognition. If you remember the city and county have created a Retiree Attraction Task Force that is working to make Lawrence more of a retirement destination. That group wants to hear your ideas on the subject.

The task force will hold a public forum from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on April 16 at City Hall to hear ideas about what would make the city more attractive to retirees. The task force hopes to deliver a set of recommendations to the city and county commission by the end of May.


irvan moore 6 years ago

maybe the hotel could be built in the old borders building, lots of parking there now, next to hobbs taylor, win win for everybody, put a pocket park on the corner at new hampshire

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Just guessing, but purchasing the already developed property that was once Borders, tearing that structure down and then building a new structure would add significantly to the cost of the project. And add enough that it would no longer be a viable financial endeavor. But I sure do hope something goes into Borders before it begins to deteriorate.

Frank A Janzen 6 years ago

The rumor is that Compton has sold his headquarters on North Iowa Street to Black Hills Energy, and so he, Compton, can now use the space on the north-east corner of 9th and NH, the former home of Black Hills, to build his multi-story building.

Deb Stavin 6 years ago

Lawrence has a KOA campground for recreational vehicles. Clinton Lake also has campsites. Both have shower facilities and safe cooking fire areas for people who prefer not to live in traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. They collect appropriate fees for usage. If some people want to live in their vehicles, that's fine, but I don't think the public streets are an appropriate place to park them. These guys are basically camping.

somedude20 6 years ago

Instead of an hotel/apartment building, maybe they should just rent out campers that can be parked anywhere in town and come with a bucket.

pizzapete 6 years ago

Would it be legal for these vehicle campers to buy a parking pass and live at the New Hampshire St. garage downtown? With the new apartment building there will surely be many keeping their vehicles there on a semi permanent basis.

BitterClinger 6 years ago

You can't park your own vehicle in front of your own house day after day after day without getting a ticket. Why is this different?

deec 6 years ago

It's not; They move the vehicles every 48 hours, so they are legal. Maybe jealous busybodies should mind their own business and leave these two men alone.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

"mind your own business" "leave these two men alone"

As we should leave Mr. Compton alone if he wants to build a 100 story building on his own property at 9th. and N.H.?

Or maybe there are times when the public has a legitimate interest, this being one of those times.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"As we should leave Mr. Compton alone if he wants to build a 100 story building on his own property at 9th. and N.H.?"

But you're OK with Compton trying to get the buses out of "his" intersection? And if Compton should be allowed to do whatever he wants with that property, could his neighbors then choose to do whatever they like with theirs, regardless of the effect it would have on the hotel/apartments? Are you suggesting that all zoning regulations be eliminated?

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Your sarcasm detector must be turned off today, Bozo. Clearly, the public has an interest in what is done with that corner. And just as clearly, the city can regulate that through it's powers of zoning. And it is equally clear that the campers hanging around South Park have created a situation that is in the public's interest. Hence my retort to deec who believes we should all mind our own business. I believe we should no more mind our own business in regards to those campers than we should mind our own business in regards to development of the 9th. & N.H. property. Of course, the public having a legitimate interest does not mean that every single member of the public must agree.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

Your general willingness to defend this project made your sarcasm difficult to detect.

I fail to see how there is that much similarity between a camper with one or two residents parked well away from any other inhabited structure and a multi-story hotel/apt. building with scores and occasionally hundreds of patrons. What exactly is the harm of these vehicles? Is it merely that the inhabitants are "getting away with something?"

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Let's be honest. As has been reported here several times, these individuals have a grievance against the city. So in retaliation, they have decided to park their very ugly campers on the main street in town, right next to a park. They could have chosen a thousand different locations, but they have chosen this one. They are thumbing their noses at the city, daring us to make them move. These are not people who are down on their luck. These are angry people who are choosing confrontation. It has also been reported in this forum that those buckets are where they urinate and defecate. You, Bozo, are opposed to projects mentioned above simply because you think the quality of life of nearby residents should not be interrupted. Well what about the quality of life of the good citizens of Lawrence who want their children to play in the park. We, the citizens of Lawrence spend a great deal of money for the upkeep of our parks and that one in particular. We have band concerts, art in the park, many activities there. What about our rights. What about our quality of life. Let them move somewhere else and take their anger with them. Let them clean themselves in public facilities away from our children. But if it's a confrontation they desire, and by their actions that seems to be exactly what they want, then give it to them. Force them to comply with every law on the books. Force them to conform to societal norms.

jafs 6 years ago

I agree with the idea that they should be obeying any/all relevant laws.

But, not with the idea of forcing people to conform to societal norms.

Those are rather two different things to me.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

It depends what norms we're talking about. Should we force them to put on a suit and tie and work nine to five? No. But look at Geekin Topekan's comment below. He states it's creepy that a parent would allow their children to play in a park with these two around. Now things are turned upside down. Two creeps shouldn't be forcing parents into that situation. Societal norms would indicate that children should be free to play in parks without having creepy people around. This reminds me of an incident that happened many years ago, when I was a student at K.U. I was walking from campus towards 9th. St., I was between 10th. & 11th. on maybe Miss. St. It was late at night. There was a sidewalk on only one side of the street and I was traveling on it. Ahead, I saw a woman, walking in the same direction. She was alone, and obviously concerned about the guy following her (me). I saw her anxiety. At the corner, I turned and zigzagged home. It's sad that a woman cannot feel safe simply walking home. I felt it my duty (societal norm) to relieve her anxiety by simply choosing another path. The same is true with these two. Creepy older guys should not be hanging around parks and surely not 24/7. Parks with jungle gyms, wading pools, sprinklers are designed specifically for certain members of our community and we all know who those people are. They are for kids.

jafs 6 years ago

That was considerate of you.

But, if we want to dictate behavior, we need to make laws about it, not just call things societal norms and force compliance.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Right. And if individuals thumb their noses at the rest of us, then pass a law making their continued poor behavior more difficult.

jafs 6 years ago

Well, I wouldn't make a law against thumbing noses, personally.

You seem to be more interested in controlling people than I am, generally.

How far do you extend that? Where does individual freedom end for you? If I do something you find offensive, should it be illegal, even if it harms nobody?


jhawkinsf 6 years ago

You act like I invented the concept. I didn't. Why do we give a tax deduction if a person gives to charity? Because we're nudging them to behave in a certain way. Why is there a two hour time limit on meters on Mass. St. yet there are ten hour lots, at lower costs, just a half block away? Because we're nudging a person's behavior in such a way as to allow others to park in front of the stores.
Currently, the law is that they must move those vehicles every 48 hours. But if they move them six inches, they may be complying with the letter of the law but not the spirit. Why not ban parking there from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm, opening up another lane for traffic while forcing the campers to comply with the spirit of the law as well as the letter?

jafs 6 years ago

I never said you invented it.

I'm not so fond of using tax policy to do that either.

The parking example makes sense as a way to help stores get a higher turnover - it's not that anybody is "offended" by long term parking, or that it violates social norms.

Well, since your example is completely hypothetical, I can't really answer your question. I don't know whether moving them six inches does indeed comply with the law or not.

And, your idea may have merit, but it's based on more than simply forcing compliance with social norms, which was your earlier statement.

jafs 6 years ago

I also wonder how complying with all city ordinances qualifies as "thumbing his nose" at anybody.

Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years ago

I admit that it's kind of creepy that a person would choose to live in their vehicle next to a childrens playground for days at a time, but to each his own. I think they would find better amenities at a campground.

deec 6 years ago

I think it is creepy that people still send their children to certain brands of churches, where they are much more likely to be molested. and maybe we should be keeping the kiddies away from their male relatives, since that is the group with the highest molestation rate. "In the past, other research has concluded similarly that in North America, for example, approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.[12][13][14] Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as 'friends' of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.[12] Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; studies show that women commit 14% to 40% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls.[12][13][15] "

Jimmy 6 years ago

You all ready for this?

Instead of a new hotel, Lawrence should construct a downtown RV campground specifically for retirees!

Problems solved. Let the weekend begin.

Jean Robart 6 years ago

Who said they are retirees? I am retired, and the retired people I know prefer to live in a building with working bathroom facilities.

equalaccessprivacy 6 years ago

Don't know what sort of bumpkins would see a place like Lawrence that's overrun by street harassers and offensive patronizing attitudes and prejudices as a haven for retirees!! A better plan might be to don your running shoes and get the heck out of town before all these backward, dishonest thugs start persecuting you.

Get a clue! Tolerance means minding your own business. Dumb people who just want to be thanked are not going to make anyone's day let alone improve people's lives. First do no harm. You have the wrong password to approach strangers, and own nothing in your obvious spiritual blindness any thinking person needs or wants! Ignorance hurts people. Back off!

asixbury 6 years ago

lol! I don't think the profanities were needed, but the gimmick is funny. Totally worth the $5.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

"funny" ??? If he is seriously hurt, I'm certain his insurance will pay for his care.
What, you say, no insurance? I guess then you and I the taxpayer will pay for his care.
Yea, funny. Not.

asixbury 6 years ago

It sounds like it was meant to be funny. Anyone who hits him hard enough to cause real damage is the one that has a problem. Let him get kicked in the nads if he wants to. What business is it of ours?

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

It is none of my business, if he is going to pay for any damage that is caused. If it gets to the point where the public is going to pay, then it is in the public interest.

asixbury 6 years ago

That's being a little ridiculous. You are nit-picking now, looking for a problem where there is none.

somedude20 6 years ago

that fiver could get you one LJW paper thrown on (or around) your porch so don't waste it

asixbury 6 years ago

Wow, equalaccessprivacy, you should just move out of Lawrence if you hate it so much. Lawrence is a million times better than any other city I have lived in Kansas (which is a lot), because of the diversity, open-mindedness, and opportunities so close by (KC). Sure, Lawrence could be better in all the areas I mentioned, but we are a lot farther ahead than other areas of Kansas. The last place I lived at before Lawrence, on my first day of work, my coworkers asked which church I go to. When I replied none, they looked at me as though I was the devil. I don't mind being the devil, but not usually at work!

somedude20 6 years ago

Ole Mayor Mike nearly took out a few cars yesterday. Around 5PM old Mike was driving his shanty town on Kentucky St. Around 17th, he decided to slam on his brakes then try to make a right hand turn from the left lane not giving a spit about the cars behind him and off to the right of him. Point is, this hardest working man in no business should NOT be driving (even with triple thick glasses). Let him park somewhere so that he does not injure or kill anyone

fanofKU 6 years ago

A retirement community???? In my mind a retirement community would include decent age appropriate shopping, which Lawrence does not have, college kids like it, but not the elderly; good medical services, which Lawrence lacks desperately. You get blood work done and you get to wait a week for the results. In Topeka and Kansas City the results are immediate. Lawrence lacks the technology to make this a quicker process. And now we even have a newspaper that pushes the elderly outside to walk to the curb to get their paper, leaving it wide open to fall and break a hip or other bones. I would never call Lawrence a "Retirement Community!"

asixbury 6 years ago

A lot of what you said is merely opinion. The clothing store choices I would agree are not age-appropriate for retirees. Lawrence hospital care is no different than any other city this size (actually, it is better than most). And the elders can pay to have their newspapers delivered to their front door. This town is pedestrian-friendly (more so than any other in Kansas) and has a lot of activities for the Senior citizens to be involved in. Compared to much of this area, Lawrence has a lot to offer.

irvan moore 6 years ago

i go to the va outclinic here and they have my bloodwork results the next day, pretty darn good service. thanks roscoe

geekin_topekan 6 years ago

I admit that it's kind of creepy that a person would choose to live in their vehicle next to a childrens playground for days at a time ++++ I think its creepy that a parent would allow their children to play in front of someone's camper.

So where in the Constitution does it say that a man must live within four walls and a mailbox? Why would you want to make him pay for something he obviously doesn't need or want? Next thing you know you'll be making him buy health insurance,

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Who have these residents on wheels bothered? Anyone? What if these folks were living in shiny new Class A Winnebago's or Fleetwoods? It seems most who write in are concerned about the "appearance" of the vehicles ...can we say shallow cosmetics?

The might be real creeps in the Kansas legislature and the halls of congress who destroy lives daily somehow.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

Can we say Merrill should invite them to park on his property?

asixbury 6 years ago

There's a major difference between parking in a legal, public parking space and someone's private parking space. Your argument is ridiculous, and you have also managed to prove Merrill's point.

Jean Robart 6 years ago

We don't need another special tax district in Lawrence. It's already confusing enough. Watch what happens to downtown commerce if they succeed with this crummy idea.

Dan Blomgren 6 years ago

Re-elcting Obama is bad for America!

Dan Blomgren 6 years ago

Re-elcting Obama is bad for America!

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