News and notes from around town:
• Well, the cars are gone but the concerns aren’t. Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will get another update on the dilapidated property at 1106 R.I. — including a recommendation to demolish a late 1800s home.
The basic update is that the property is still dilapidated, but it has a lot less junk and old Packard cars strewn about the yard. If you remember, the property was the site of a couple of auctions recently that attracted collectors and other onlookers to the property that was owned by the previous operator of the city’s Packard dealership.
City inspectors now say the yard of the property — which is just east of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center — is in compliance with city code. But they continue to express concern about the condition of the house, an old barn and various garages.
City commissioners on Tuesday will be asked to submit the necessary paperwork to the city’s Historic Resources Commission that would allow the house, a barn and various other structures to be demolished.
That request is sure to spark concern from historic preservationists. The Lawrence Preservation Alliance already has expressed a strong interest in the property and, in fact, has made an offer to purchase it from the Barland family. I believe there has been other interest in the property as well, although I’m not sure how many other people are actually interested in saving the home and the barn.
The city’s Historic Resources Commission, however, may be very interested in saving the structures. Records indicate the house was built in 1871 by Irishman Rhody Delahunty, who operated a “dray wagon” business out of the property. In short, the site played a key role in keeping Lawrence fed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Delahunty’s business, it appears, hauled most of the fresh meat into the city during those days. By the 1920s, a large barn had been built to house the company’s hauling equipment, including a 1919 Diamond T truck that has been credited as being the first “big truck” to ever operate in Lawrence.
The Historic Resources Commission in April issued a preliminary opinion of the property. At that time, it found the house and the barn shouldn’t be razed.
City commissioners, though, can find otherwise, but the property will have to go through another hearing at the HRC before anything can be done.
First, though, commissioners will want to hear from Brian Barland, who is the trustee for the property and the son of the former Packard dealership owner. Commissioners in May told Barland they wanted him to present some options for how the property could be sold or restored.
It will be interesting to see how this one will play itself out. It could end up being tougher than the old Packards that sat in the yard for years. Normally, the city’s hammer in a situation like this is the threat that the buildings will be torn down, and the costs for the demolition get passed onto the property owner.
More and more though, property owners don’t see that as a threat. As this case is proving, historic resources considerations can make it very difficult to get an old house torn down in Lawrence. I don’t know what type of emotional attachment the current property owners have to the structures, but absent that, the worst that happens to the property owners if the structures are torn down is that they get a bill from the city and a clean piece of property to redevelop.
That doesn’t seem like much of a hammer.
The city has struggled for quite some time with the issue of “demolition by neglect” in the city. Perhaps this case, which will attract the attention of historic preservationists in a large way, will spur the city to come up with a better system.
• Speaking of cars built for a tornado (isn’t that how you would describe a Packard?) there will be one in Lawrence tomorrow. And yes, it will be even odder looking than a Packard.
Lawrence’s Line-X store, 920 1/2 E. 28th Street, will be displaying the Dominator vehicle from the Discovery Channel’s popular Storm Chaser’s program.
From about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the highly customized vehicle and a technician who works on it will be at Motorsports Unlimited and Line-X of Lawrence.
For those of you who haven’t seen the show, it features standard vehicles that are then outfitted to withstand tornadoes and other severe weather.
The Dominator, according to the show’s Web site, is built around a 2011 GMC Yukon. But the truck has been lengthened by nearly two feet and also widened significantly to give it greater stability. But the most noticeable change is its specialized shell. The vehicle uses a combination of reinforced sheet metal, Lexan and special coatings from the Line-X company to protect it from flying debris.
The Discovery Channel now claims the truck can withstand winds up to 200 mph.
One other noticeable difference with this vehicle is it cannons. Yeah, can you imagine if irritable Lawrence drivers actually had cannons? These cannons are pipe-like devices that shoot parachute-equipped drones into cyclone winds to gather weather data. (I’m sure that’s how my wife would use a cannon, if she had one on her Taurus.)
• If the Dominator folks would stick around until Saturday, they could use the vehicle to participate in a special Friends of the Lawrence Public Library event.
The Friends will host their first-ever drive up book donation event. Each year, the Friends accept book donations for its Fall Book Sale. But this year, the group is trying to make it easier to donate by allowing folks to drive up in their vehicles and hand the books over to roadside volunteers.
The event will be from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday along the east side of Kentucky street near the library. Specifically, volunteers will be lined up from the crosswalk serving the Outdoor Aquatic Center north to the library’s book drop box.
Previously, folks who wanted to donate to the sale had to bring the books inside the library, and organizers had noticed people sometimes struggled with bringing large amounts of books into the building. The Fall Book Sale is scheduled for Sept. 13-18.
All this talk of the Dominator and book drop off lanes, though, has given me an idea. Maybe we can combine the two.
A book cannon, anyone?