For a dispute that centered on a man shooting a gun, this one ended without much drama.
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday stepped in to settle a dispute involving city residents who live next to a rural property owner who was frequently conducting target practice with a .22 rifle on his property.
A group of about 30 residents who live in the River Bend Court and the Sunchase Drive area in northern Lawrence had petitioned to have the rural home of Alan Cobb, 1742 E. 1350 Road, annexed into the city in order to make firing of a firearm illegal.
But commissioners instead received assurances from Cobb that he would stop firing on his property, and that the city would send a letter to the Douglas County Commission asking it to place an abatement on the property making it illegal to shoot there because of its proximity to multiple homes.
“I basically have given up my right in order to appease everybody because I’m not trying to start any trouble,” Cobb said.
Residents of the neighborhood said they would drop their request for annexation if the County Commission would take formal action to place an order on the property making it clear that target shooting wasn’t allowed.
A letter from the Douglas County Sheriff’s office indicated such an abatement could be placed on the property using a county nuisance ordinance that is on the books. The sheriff’s department notified Cobb of the nuisance law about a week ago, and the department said it appears Cobb has not conducted target practice on the property since then.
Neighbors in the area said they just wanted the shooting to stop.
“I have no problem with Mr. Cobb shooting a gun,” said John Barnett, a neighbor to the property. “But when I shoot a gun, I shoot it at a range or at a place where there is no one around. We’re not angry; we just want something resolved.”
The area where Cobb was shooting targets is a little less than 100 yards away from other residences, according to information from the sheriff’s department. Cobb was using hay bales as a backstop for the makeshift range, and the area also has a tree line that separates the houses.
Cobb said he wouldn’t object to any action the county took, as long as the county didn’t try to create a broader ordinance that made it illegal for other rural property owners to shoot targets on their land.
City commissioners said they had no intention of asking county commissioners to consider such an action.
“We just want to put the neighborhood at ease that there won’t be firearms out there,” Mayor Bob Schumm said.
Cobb said he wished his neighbors simply would have brought their concerns to his attention rather than trying to force him into the city limits against his will.
“Anybody from the neighborhood could have come up and talked to me, and we could have figured this out,” Cobb said. “I’m not unapproachable."
Recreation center debate postponed
Lawrence city commissioners went into a 45-minute executive session with city attorneys at their Tuesday evening meeting, and then emerged to announce they were delaying plans to debate a proposed recreation center for at least a week.
Commissioners announced that they were now scheduled to hear a rezoning request and other issues related to a proposed youth fieldhouse/recreation complex at Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway at their Sept. 4 meeting.
Previously commissioners had planned to hear the recreation center items at their Aug. 28 meeting. Commissioners did not provide any details about what they discussed in the executive session or why they decided to delay the recreation center items.
City OKs new fund transfer policy
Commissioners unanimously agreed to a new policy that spells out how the city can transfer funds by city ratepayers into the city’s general operating account.
In 2012, the city is scheduled to transfer more than $3 million from its water/sewer, trash and storm water utility funds into the city’s general operating fund. The transfer is meant to account for costs other city departments incur while assisting the various city utilities.
The new policy, among other items, allows the city to charge the city utilities an amount that is equal to what they would pay in property taxes if they were a private, for-profit utility.
Members of the Lawrence Home Builders Association and the Lawrence Board of Realtors objected to the policy. Both groups asked the city to do more detailed cost accounting to show how much other city departments are spending on matters related to the utility departments.
But commissioners said such an accounting process likely would be complicated and costly in itself. Instead, commissioners indicated they would have the city auditor periodically audit the amount of transfers being made from ratepayer funds to the city’s general fund.
$75,000 for library art project approved
Commissioners unanimously agreed to accept proposals for $75,000 worth of public art for the Lawrence Public Library expansion.
A city-appointed group is scheduled to review the proposals in early October.
Changes to development regulations to be studied
Commissioners unanimously agreed to ask the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission to consider a host of changes to development regulations.
One change would eliminate the requirement that a private consultant be hired to conduct a retail market study for projects that would add at least 50,000 square feet of new retail space to the city.
The other change would make it clear that the city could approve rezoning requests even if those requests don’t comply with Horizon 2020, the city and county’s comprehensive plan.
The League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County voiced objections to the proposed changes but were reassured by commissioners that Tuesday’s actions only started the process of studying the issues.
Action on downtown directory sign delayed
Commissioners delayed taking action on a request to allow a new downtown directory sign to be built at the northeast corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets.
Commissioners expressed concern about the project after learning that the directory was designed to list only members of Downtown Lawrence Inc.
The directory is being proposed and would be maintained by Downtown Lawrence Inc.
But commissioners said that because the sign would be located on a public right-of-way, there needed to be more thought to how the sign could feasibly include all businesses in downtown.