Archive for Friday, June 22, 2012

City officials to consider fate of 9th, N.H. plan

June 22, 2012


It will be a tall order for Lawrence city commissioners.

At their Tuesday evening meeting city commissioners will attempt to end a long-raging debate about whether a multistory hotel/retail building should be allowed on the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

On one side are several neighbors who argue the proposed building is too tall to coexist with the historic neighborhood immediately east of the site. On the other side is a development group that contends they’ve shrunk the building as much as is feasible and that further rejection from the city could damage the health of downtown Lawrence.

City commissioners this week were cautious in saying too much about their opinions on the project, but City Commissioner Aron Cromwell said both sides are still pointing to issues they are unhappy with.

This rendering provided by Treanor Architects shows the revised building plan for a project at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, directly north of the existing Lawrence Arts Center. The plan was rejected Monday, April 30, 2012, by the Historic Resources Commission.

This rendering provided by Treanor Architects shows the revised building plan for a project at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, directly north of the existing Lawrence Arts Center. The plan was rejected Monday, April 30, 2012, by the Historic Resources Commission.

“But the law of infill development seems to be that if you have everyone unhappy, you probably are on the right track,” Cromwell said.

Commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday to hear a formal appeal of a Historic Resources Commission decision that rejected the project on the grounds it wasn’t compatible with the historic neighborhood to the east. Here’s a look at several issues surrounding the project:

l The project has changed significantly since it was first proposed in September 2011. Mayor Bob Schumm and Commissioner Mike Dever both have worked with the development group — led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — to reduce the height of the building. The discussions also spurred a proposal for a seven-story apartment/office building on the northeast corner of the intersection, and a package of city incentives for the two buildings. Neither the seven-story building nor the incentives package are up for approval on Tuesday.

l The hotel/retail building is proposed to have 90 hotel rooms that would be part of a TownePlace Marriott extended stay hotel. The project also would include a restaurant on the fifth floor and retail space on the ground floor. In total, the building would be 121,908 square feet.

l As for height, the building is taller along New Hampshire Street and shorter along the alley nearest neighbors. In terms of specifics, the building will be 63 feet at the corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets. Along the alley, the building will be 40 feet tall.

l Unlike with most issues, city commissioners will be sitting in a “quasi-judicial” role. Commissioners are being asked to make a legal ruling on whether there are “feasible and prudent” alternatives to the proposed project. The commission’s decision is subject to an appeal in Douglas County District Court.

The issue of whether there is a feasible and prudent alternative is expected to be hotly contested on Tuesday. Several neighbors have hired Lawrence attorney Ronald Schneider to argue the project can’t proceed as designed. Schneider said he plans to present data to show several other types of projects on the property would be feasible, especially if developers gave up on the idea that the property must include an underground parking garage.

“As presented, about a third of the costs goes to an off-street parking garage,” Schneider said. “There are nearly an infinite number of uses for that property that wouldn’t require off-street parking.”

But Bill Fleming, an attorney for the development group, said the project already has won a positive recommendation from the city’s professional planning staff. He said the evidence doesn’t support that the project will damage the neighborhood to the east.

“The main issue for us is the project is located in a commercially zoned district of downtown,” Fleming said. “We really think this project will support downtown and make downtown a more desirable attraction.

“We’re not building this in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The project is being built where it is supposed to be built.”


kshiker 4 years ago

If the City Commission turns down this project, then maybe we can finally get rid of this idiotic historic environs review process. The process has only become a tool to help the anti-development nuts stifle good development proposals.

deec 4 years ago

You think a decision by the city commission is going to overturn state and federal law?

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

State still has a historic review process the city could use. It would eliminate positions, save money, get rid of a duplicate office the state already has, and make Lawrence a little more business friendly.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"and make Lawrence a little more business rubber-stamp."

There-- fixed that for you.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

I guess you showed where you stand, that you don't want any new businesses in Lawrence, which is the reason our property taxes are higher.

I would think "business rubber-stamp" might help us attract some higher paying jobs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"that you don't want any new businesses in Lawrence,"

Strawman fail.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

“We’re not building this in the middle of a residential neighborhood."

Not true. Before the Arts Center was built, that stretch of NH had several houses that were the western edge of the E. Lawrence neighborhood. Development there should be a transition between downtown and the residential neighborhood, not one of the largest and most intensely used buildings downtown.

COjayrocks 4 years ago

"Before the Arts Center"...irrelevant. The Arts Center is built and there to stay.

Your "development is a transition between downtown" argument suggests that developers cannot build a commercial project on what is zoned as commercial property--sounds subjective to me. Why can't the transition be bumped one block East now that downtown has bumped one block east? See what I did there?

Some of those houses are not at all maintained to what any of us would consider acceptable, yet they get to sit on it and let the proximity of downtown bring up the value of their home without any mutually beneficial arrangement for downtown. Seems to me like it's a one-sided deal.

George_Braziller 4 years ago

How exactly does a house's proximity to downtown bring up it's value? The least expensive housing in Lawrence is in East Lawrence.

COjayrocks 4 years ago

Hypothetically, pick up any of those homes on the 900 block of Rhode Island, drop them back down on the 900 block of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Delaware and tell me if the new appraisal for the home goes up or down. Even in such a small space the value will go down. Move that exact same house anywhere west of Iowa street and the price drops even lower. Just because the homes are not going for $1M+ doesn't mean the proximity to downtown isn't increasing the property's value by a certain percentage.

George_Braziller 4 years ago

They'd go down, but not because of the proximity to downtown.They'd go down because that's the old industrial area. Move them to Barker, Old West, or Oread Neighborhoods on the south or west of downtown or anywhere west of Mass and the value would go up. East Lawrence has an undeserved stigma attached to it that goes back to the 1880s.

I live on Rhode Island within spitting distance of downtown. There's a house almost identical to mine in the same block of Ohio. It's appraised for about $50,000 more just because it isn't in East Lawrence. Living close to downtown is actually often a pain in the ass.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"Your "development is a transition between downtown" argument suggests that developers cannot build a commercial project on what is zoned as commercial property"

Not at all-- it just shouldn't be so large that it overwhelms the adjacent residential neighborhood. The HRC guidelines say that it should be on the same scale as the Arts Center, which would be considerably denser than the houses that have been/will have been replaced. Under those guidelines, a very large commercial building could be built there that would be considerably denser than the residential housing stock it replaces.

"Why can't the transition be bumped one block East now that downtown has bumped one block east? See what I did there?"

Yea, you just proposed an ever creeping take over of the residential neighborhood of E. Lawrence by downtown-- a creep that already happened when the houses along that block of NH were bulldozed a decade or so ago.

"Some of those houses are not at all maintained to what any of us would consider acceptable,"

They may not be the cookie-cutter, tick-tacky bland that you prefer, but nearly all of houses in that block are in very good repair, or well on their way in that direction. You're just throwing crap against the wall for lack of a valid argument otherwise.

"yet they get to sit on it and let the proximity of downtown bring up the value of their home without any mutually beneficial arrangement for downtown. "

And the crap that's sliding off the wall just gets deeper.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

In another thread, I've been discussing with Jafs a problem he has with this project, namely that the jobs promised might not materialize. You, on the other hand seem to be concerned that too many jobs will be created. "one of the largest and most intensely used buildings" Intensely used for a building dedicated to business activity means jobs. I just find it interesting that opposition to this building comes in the form of an argument that it might create too many jobs AND that it might create too few jobs.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"Intensely used for a building dedicated to business activity means jobs."

What utter crap. The future of the Lawrence job market does not depend on the handful of low-paying service jobs that this project might create, and the fact is, it'd probably just be a transference of the same jobs from other hotels/apt. complexes as a saturated market just gets more saturated.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

So you believe that the jobs created by this new hotel will only be a "transference of the same jobs from other hotels/apt. complexes". I wonder how you would see that happening? Say this new hotel hires a clerk to work the front desk. Suppose you are correct, and this clerk did indeed work at another hotel. Will that other hotel leave their front desk unattended? I doubt they will. The same with the people who clean the rooms. Even if they move from some existing hotel, the former employer will not likely leave their rooms uncleaned. The same with the person who sets up those cute complimentary breakfasts. No, Bozo, jobs will be created. And of course, that doesn't take into account the construction jobs created to build the structure. Although those jobs are a one time shot, every penny of that money is new money being pumped into the local economy. I'll just guess, but I'd be surprised if that number didn't reach six figures for a building of that size.
"handful of low paying service jobs" - The unfortunate truth is that we have a surplus of unemployed who have few marketable skills worthy of high paying jobs. No one is going to pay them high wages for skills they do not possess. No one "should" pay them for skills they do not possess. The fact is that we need jobs across the spectrum. We need well paying jobs for highly skilled individuals. We need low paying jobs for individuals with limited skill sets. And we need jobs for everyone in between. Just because these jobs are low paying doesn't mean they shouldn't be created. If low paying jobs aren't created, then it's those with low skill sets are going to suffer unemployment. Is that what you advocate? Or do you advocate that those with poor skills be paid more than they are worth? It has to be one or the other.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Your long-winded fixation on jobs at the exclusion of any other consideration is just too simplistic a way to look this issue for me. Pardon me if I take a wider view, especially considering that there are plenty of other potential ways to develop this area that will also create new jobs, and perhaps new jobs that don't just shift the location of already existing ones.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is. Put a few million on the line and create a couple of dozen jobs. Let's see you do it, Bozo. But if for some reason you can't, then why not give someone else a chance. There are many out there without jobs. Not me. Maybe not you. That I don't know. What I do know is that you spend a lot of time complaining when politicians go off on these wild tangents that you think will destroy jobs. Fair enough. But you can't also complain when people want to create jobs. And then complain that there are no jobs out there for the unemployed.
If you do choose to complain when jobs are destroyed, complain when jobs are created and then complain that there are no jobs for the unemployed, then you should change your name from Bozo to Complainer-In-Chief.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Your one-track, simplistic view of the world never changes, does it? Just because you want to kiss someone's derrière because they claim they'll be a "job creator" but only if we give them $millions in corporate welfare and let them screw up the livability of a century-and-a-half old neighborhood that doesn't give your sycophancy a shred of credibility.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Bozo, the house next to mine is for sale. I can control who moves in there by purchasing that house. But barring that, I have little control. The next owners might be a couple in retirement, a quiet sort of family. Or it might be a couple with 14 children, with all the noise and associated issues. That's a risk we all take when we choose to live in a community. We can reduce those risks, or increase them. And of course, sometimes we trade one benefit for something that is not a benefit. I may not be disturbed by the noise and hubbub of downtown, but I also can't take a leisurely stroll to South Park without getting in a car (or in my case, taking a bike ride). It's a trade off. But I do live within the city limits, so sometimes, the house next door becomes available and I have zero control over who will live there, how they may live there or how it might effect my lifestyle. It's a gamble. I find it hard to believe that residents that live very, very close to Mass. St. don't understand that with that address comes both benefits and non-benefits. That doesn't mean the nearby residents shouldn't have their concerns heard. But it doesn't mean that their concerns should override the legitimate best interests of the city as a whole. And if those best interests of the city is a vibrant downtown and if those best interests are the creation of jobs and if those best interests include long term tax base expansion, then in balance, the inconvenience of a few must be sacrificed. All these "ifs" are at the discretion of our elected officials and should they make poor decisions, then the 16% that bother to take to the polls have the ability to alter their path.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

So, now you're comparing a six-story, super-sized hotel/apt. complex with the family next door.

When the hole gets deep, it's best to stop digging.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

I'm comparing the compromises we all have to make to live in a community. I make them. I'm forced to make them. So should you. So should everyone. I go to Clinton Lake all the time. It's a lovely ride on my bicycle. But I also recall the time before it was there. I recall people having to move, lose their land as the dam was built and the land behind was flooded. They lost their land. But how many have enjoyed the lake since it opened? Is the number in the millions yet? It happens. Have you ever gone to Clinton? Have you ever traveled across lands that have altered for the public good to the detriment of former owners. It happens. Don't pretend you haven't benefitted. if you're alive, you have. Maybe the last time it happened it was them, this time it's you. Next time it's me. It's the cost of living in a community.

When you don't want to engage in a civil conversation, a fair exchange of ideas, you just turn off the dialogue. Fine. But when you turn off the dialogue and then you lose the battle of ideas in the public forum that is our style of government, then you can rant and rave in an empty room. Or cry into your mirror. Who will hear you then. If you think I'm wrong, then with civil dialogue make your case. Try your hardest to change my mind. And if you can't, maybe you'll change the mind of some other reader. Or two other readers. That's the strategy I choose.
Or you can complain about the big bad developers, mega corporations, this and that while that building goes up. Your choice.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"I'm comparing the compromises we all have to make to live in a community."

Not everybody. The builders of this hotel certainly aren't willing to make any, and you're cheering them on.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

They have offered compromises. And they're offering jobs. And I'd be willing to bet they pay a damn bit more money into the city coffers than you do. Hell yes I want them to spend their money here. Because if they don't, then they'll just spend it in Lenexa. Or K.C., Mo. Or Dallas. Damn right I want that money spent here, benefitting the people of Lawrence. And hell yes I want those jobs going to Lawrence residents who will then that money here. And if they spend it at the Merc, or at a local bar, or at a local restaurant, then those establishments will hire people who will in turn spend that money again and hopefully they'll be spending their money locally. And with every purchase, there will be a tax going right into the city's treasury that in turn will provide for the people of Lawrence. Yes, I want them to spend their money here. I want you to spend your money here. I want to spend my money here. We should all be working towards that goal.

jafs 4 years ago

Only if there's increased demand, rather than just shifting it around from one place to another.

If the latter is the case, then other hotels, etc. will suffer, and perhaps close.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Following this new format is difficult. I'm guessing at the point you're making, but I'll try to respond anyway.
Every new business runs the risk that they will take business and workers from existing businesses. So every new venture runs the risk that instead of creating new jobs and new business activity, they are just taking from one and giving to another. But does that mean new business should never be created? I don't think so. It's all about risk assessment. Suppose I gave you the following scenario. This new hotel does indeed take business away from existing hotels. Suppose it does encourage workers to flee those hotels and work at this new one. But suppose this, that we're not taking about existing hotels in Lawrence but existing ones in Lincoln, Nebraska and Columbia, Missouri. And hotels in Norman, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas. What I'm suggesting is that this new hotel will bring conferences to Lawrence that are now going to other regional college towns. Would that make a difference? Is it O.K. to steal their business, as long as this new hotel isn't stealing from local hotels? There is no easy answer, other than I know that if given the opportunity to steal our business, many, many cities would do it. So there's a competition going on out there, like it or not. And unless you can get every community in the world to agree not to compete, that competition will continue. And let's be clear, you can't get such an agreement. What you can do is cut off your nose to spite your face, but you can't get cities to not compete. Will that strategy be successful? I have no idea. But I do know what I know. We have a developer willing to invest millions into the local economy. That will happen from day one of construction. Jobs will be created. That will happen. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians will be hired and every single one of those jobs will be new jobs newly created with new money being pumped into the local economy. That's a certainty.
The rest is something of a gamble. But if someone is willing to put millions on the line, millions that will benefit the local right now, I say it's a gamble worth taking.

jafs 4 years ago

It's a gamble, as you say.

I'm just saying that one can't count on "new jobs" unless they're actually new, and don't simply result from shifting them around from one business to another.

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

As I said, the construction jobs are 100% guaranteed to be new. All the spending associated with construction, buying materials, project managers, architects, etc., those are guaranteed to be new.
What is likely is that once front desk people are hired, cleaning staff, etc., they will be either new jobs or if they do take staff from other hotels, then those hotels will be hiring new people. I can't believe the other hotels will leave their front desk unmanned. I can't believe they would leave their beds unmade. Possible, but unlikely. But I do admit the possibility exists. Of course, the possibility exists that should a new hotel put too much pressure on an old hotel that the owner will hire an arsonist to burn the place down to collect insurance and in the process several firefighters will get killed. It's possible. It's a risk. But I don't think we should be paralyzed by fear such that we shouldn't be able to make reasonable judgements, even without guarantees.

jafs 4 years ago

You keep missing the point about demand - if demand stays the same, and just moves from one hotel to another, both hotels can't stay in business very long.

I grant you that the construction jobs will probably be new, although if we gave abatements for expansions of existing businesses, other hotels might expand instead.

The underlying assumption with these projects is that there will be some sort of increased demand, which is often not true.

I make reasonable judgements all the time, and my such judgement is that the developers can take the risks rather than the city, if they're warranted. And, if the developer doesn't feel they're warranted, why should the city?

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

It's interesting that you believe the city is taking the risk and the developer is not. Isn't that what you said, "if the developer doesn't feel they're warranted, (risk), why should the city. The fact is, Jafs, the developer is making a substantial investment. They are not asking the city to assume all the risk. If the developer invests many millions of dollars, they're assuming substantial risk. Turn your question around. If the developer has enough confidence in this project, so much confidence that they're willing to invest millions, why shouldn't the city also have confidence in partnering with the person willing to make that huge investment. But again, I ask to to look at the alternative. I mentioned earlier in this thread when speaking to Bozo that although the permanent jobs envisioned are of the lower paying variety, that's exactly what is needed for people with limited skill sets. This isn't providing low income housing, it's providing low income jobs. Look at who is currently unemployed and you will find people across the economic spectrum. We need all types of jobs. This fills a void. Because they are low paying shouldn't matter. They're needed. Then, what happens if this empty lot stays an empty lot. As we've seen, when abatements don't come about, neither do the projects. So we have an empty lot. For year after year. The city gets a small amount of money from property taxes. The homeless have a place to hang out and throw their empty beer cans. Is that what the neighborhood needs? Is that what the arts center needs next door? Even if you have problems with this current proposal, what do you see as a likely alternative? Do you see another project to take it's place? Or do you see an empty lot?

jafs 4 years ago

If the developer is willing to take the risk, which includes paying taxes on the actual market value of the property, they have my blessing to do so.

I don't have confidence that real estate speculators are always right - one can see a number of such speculative investments that have failed.

And, especially with the way our laws are written, failed investments don't always hurt those guys as much as I might think they should - there are a number of ways they can "write off" the losses, or cushion the blow.

Lawrence has always had a problem with jobs, and will probably always have that problem. The growth of Lawrence as a "commuter town" has increased the problem - currently many fewer people both live and work in Lawrence than when I first moved here, and real estate has skyrocketed.

College towns have a combination of positive and negative attributes - one of the negatives is that the cost of living is generally high relative to wages in the area, due to the large numbers of part time jobs filled by college students.

I wouldn't presume to speak for the neighbors or the Arts Center - they're perfectly capable of speaking for themselves - if you want to know what they want/need you should ask them. As far as I can tell, they're not that keen on this project, at least the neighbors aren't.

Also, I don't try to predict the future, as much as possible, because it's impossible to do very well, so I have no idea what may or may not happen with that lot.

It's ok with me if it stays vacant, or if another project that wouldn't have needed tax abatements and overriding the HRC to move forward shows up.

COjayrocks 4 years ago

Hypothetically, pick up any of those homes on the 900 block of Rhode Island, drop them back down on the 900 block of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Delaware and tell me if the new appraisal for the home goes up or down. Even in such a small space the value will go down. Move that exact same house anywhere west of Iowa street and the price drops even lower. Just because the homes are not going for $1M+ doesn't mean the proximity to downtown isn't increasing the property's value by a certain percentage.

COjayrocks 4 years ago

It's not baseless, it's true. People like to be close to downtown in the majority of cities in America. People like when they live in 'walkable areas' and walkable areas require the ability to shop, dine, and work close by--downtown Lawrence. I love the historical homes in East Lawrence and others in similar areas like the West Hills. But, to assume that no one wants to live close to downtown in inaccurate.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

Of course people want to live close to downtown. But to imply that that proximity is the only appeal to living in E. Lawrence for the people who live there, or that plopping this hotel directly inside that neighborhood will increase that appeal is just plain wrong.

COjayrocks 4 years ago

You went on the attack too quickly. Proximity is definitely not the only appeal to living there. I think those homes have charm and character that can't be duplicated, would love to live there. The hotel, specifically, definitely does not make homes on that block increase in value. My point was that the proximity of those homes to downtown keeps their value at a higher appraisal even when some (not all, not even many) neglect their home on an individual level. The proximity keeps the homes' value higher than it would elsewhere, so residents close by need to understand living there should be a mutually beneficial arrangement and therefore, assumed risk should be understood when living in an area so close to the urban core.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

Not only are they asking for a waiver for historic resources, they want the taxpayers to kick in $11.8 M.

Quit spending through the tax code! If we are going to give them $11.8M, it should be on the expenditure side of the budget.

Then EVERYONE with an economic development activity can put in a proposal for the money and they can all be evaluated on their merits.

When you spend through the tax code, only the rich are able to benefit.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

And once again someone who doesn't understand how this tax works. The city isn't giving 11.8 mil, the developer is . Then the excessive taxes created by this project will pay off the developers loan. So if the project is denied, the city didn't save $11.8 million, it will just continue in the future to get the same taxes on that land only.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

So, you'd be OK if the city never charges any taxes on any improvements on any properties in Lawrence for the next 20 years, right?

ljwhirled 4 years ago

When you give them a tax break, you are spending through the tax code.

If these guys don't develop it, someone else will.

A project that is only feasible with a handout from the taxpayers isn't feasible.

It is not welfare for the poor that drives me nuts, it is welfare for the rich.

usesomesense 4 years ago

Property tax 'forgiveness' should ONLY be provided in the following circumstances:

  1. If the area in question is in condemn-able disrepair and the property owner waives or is stripped of ownership of the property due to unwillingness or inability to pay for repairs required for the property to be acceptable condition. A vacant lot is NOT condemn-able. Only uninhabitable and/or dangerous structures.

  2. The business being built will directly bring a SIGNIFICANT number of jobs and/or wages - basically a number of $ per square foot - the better the pay, the fewer jobs required. The building would either have to be owned by the business or at the least have a secured lease for the term of the tax break. A hotel for example houses quite a few people but generates wages for relatively few people for the square footage. An office building on the other hand is full of wage earners.

The fact is that these are investment projects. As a taxpayer being asked to provide an 'investment' the city and taxpayers will never see real dividends from, and if the project fails be on the hook still I am offended. Perhaps if the payback is 10-20% of gross rent revenues until the 'investment' is paid back with interest? We don't get a real vote on these things - just stuck waiting for election time, helpless to undo anything after the fact. If developers have concerns about infrastructure costs and return on investment perhaps they shouldn't develop things they don't have enough faith in.

Vacant lots and corn fields are not a problem in my opinion. Furthermore; if a vacant lot at that location is really a problem perhaps a community garden or park until a development plan that doesn't require the injection of taxpayer 'investments'

I'm not concerned about the design of the project - high density is really required for the continued health and growth of downtown as our population expands. It's necessary to have competition for downtown retail space and options for more downtown destinations.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

Problem is until we make Lawrence a place people want to move to, you are not going to get companies relocating to Lawrence. So, in order to attract businesses, we need to continue to grow our downtown and make it a place people want to live, not just the bar and restaurant district it is right now.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

News flash: Companies are NOT going to relocate to Lawrence. We don't want to be in a race to the bottom for the community that can give out the most tax handouts.

How did that work out for Wichita with Boeing anyway?

We want to encourage local companies to export goods and services, while working to keep our spending local. That means growing local companies, encouraging entrepreneurship and building a community with art, education and recreation facilities that make people want to live here.

No more spending through the tax code. If we are going to spend money on economic development, lets go ahead and spend it on the expenditure side of the budget.

A project that couldn't be justified as and expenditure shouldn't be weaseled into being through tax reductions and other handouts.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

"“But the law of infill development seems to be that if you have everyone unhappy, you probably are on the right track,” Cromwell said. " This is nonsense and not the attitude when dealing with a serious matter.

And more than $11 million tax $$$ in corporate welfare sometimes known as pork barrel. How does this improve the quality of life for the largest group of stakeholders in Lawrence known as the taxpayers.

Isn't it wonderful that corporate america is able to wander about to shop for "tax incentives" aka bribe money. Where did this concept originate? The tax dollar haters shop for tax dollars to put into their bank accounts.

Communities are being strong armed what a scam. Time to do away with all Free Lunch programs for the local wealthy politically connected real estate industry.

Lawrence Taxpaying Voters should weed out the city hall “Free Lunch” program!

Here’s what happens (THIS IS ALL ABOUT LOCAL DEVELOPMENT): Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston joins us to talk about "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Politically Connected LOCALS Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." Johnston reveals how government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the local poor and the local middle class to the rich politically connected.

Read,learn and weep as these folks empty our wallets and increase our taxes.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Hotel industry is a low wage industry so where is the living wage for each employee?

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago


A job is a job. Why do we only consider high paying jobs as contributing to society and paying taxes?

irvan moore 4 years ago

they have to ok it to buy out the salvation army in the city commissions war on downtown homeless, they will protect downtown at the expense of the neighborhoods

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

New York Times Journalist David Cay Johnston then boggled the crowd with a blunt assertion: "We pay billions of dollars in taxes that never get to the government." Much of the sales tax we pay at big box stores and shopping centers is diverted to the large companies that own the stores.

It's just one of the many swindles these chains have learned to perpetrate against city and county governments.

This is so effective that the Cabela family, which owns a chain of big-box sporting goods stores, receives 137% of its profits from taxpayer subsidies. If they couldn't work this scam, they wouldn't be in business at all."

This is what's happening in throughout Lawrence as we speak which is reckless tax dollar management across the board. Local developers have discovered ways to extort money from taxpayers by way of local government.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

They made a decision. It was "no". The problem is that they don't just roll over for every project that Doug, Gene and Steve throw at the commission.

pizzapete 4 years ago

I like the idea of turning this lot into a community garden or park. I'd also suggest a miniature golf course or go cart track or food trucks or zebra petting zoo until this location is more viable for development.

Why are we letting the developer push us into a project that is not economically viable at this time? Maybe in 20 years the new owner can put a hotel or apartment there without a handout from the city? If the develper isn't ready to pay for it all himself at this time don't build it, we can wait.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

+1 for Zebras. Maybe Doug Compton has an extra one we can house at the site?

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

If you like the idea, buy the property from him and start your community garden.

pizzapete 4 years ago

There is too much greed involved for me to ever consider buying or renting anything at "compton" prices. Preferably he would donate it to the city as a tax write off.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

Ah, you want him to give the city free donations, now I get it. And his prices require him to pay more taxes.

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

A habit obscene and unsavory Holds David Cay Johnson in slavery With lecherous howls He devours young owls That he keeps in an underground aviary.

Melinda Black 4 years ago

I'm trying to understand why each time I read about a controversial development project, it seems to involve Doug Compton. I also want to understand why so many of Compton's projects require taxpayer funding or abatements. Enlighten me please.

George_Braziller 4 years ago

Guess you missed the part about it not being taxed for 20 years. The only taxes that would be paid are on the current value of the empty lot.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

His Walmart in west Lawrence didn't ask for money, yet he was stuck in a lawsuit with the city to build something the ground was zoned for. The lowes he proposed and the city shot down didn't ask for abatements.

repaste 4 years ago

The Lowes asked for density increases and a 1% tiff. The Walmart was not zoned, it was ok'd by a zoning commission against the Universal Bld Code. Big Box stores are to be located at intersection of two state highways for reasons like traffic, neighborhood protection.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

Lowes never asked for a tif. And walmart was zoned correctly until the city decided they were a department store and not a variety store.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

The reason you only see fritzel and Compton asking is because they are the only ones stupid enough to try and build in Lawrence. The reputation Lawrence has as unfriendly has chased away all big builders from out of town. Much easier, faster, and cheaper to get things done in other towns.

Imagine you bought a lot zoned for a house, and the city told you no. that is what is happening on many commercial properties.

pizzapete 4 years ago

The reason we see Fritzel and Compton come up time and again is because they already own a huge percentage of buildings and available land in town. They set an artificially high price for any business or individual that is looking to buy or rent property in this town. And tax breaks allow them to continue to take over more and more of our little Monopoly board.

Are you imagining that you bought a lot zoned residencial and the city is telling you it won't allow you to build a seven story house there and it's not reasobale to use your neighbors driveway to park your cars?

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

The reason he needs a tif is because he is adding a parking garage, so your argument makes no sense. And his lot is approved for a 7 story building with the zoning it has right now!

jafs 4 years ago

Umm, he doesn't "need" a tif.

And, private parking shouldn't be at taxpayer expense, in my view.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

Once again, someone who doesn't understand TIF's....

jafs 4 years ago

I understand them quite well, thank you.

They use what would otherwise be tax revenue to the city for private expenses, like a private parking garage for the use of tenants/hotel guests.

Private expenses should be paid for by private businesses that use them, not by what would otherwise be tax revenue to the city.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

He is building a parking garage, so he will not need the neighbors driveway, and the lot is zoned CD, which allows 7 story buildings. Keep to cooking pizzas and trying to get girls to flash you Pete.

pizzapete 4 years ago

Sure, while you go off, cheeks full, hunting for more nuts.

repaste 4 years ago

Didn't one of Cromwell's buddy/partner/clients just apply for some city taxpayer cash last week? " Landmark Development"

Carol Bowen 4 years ago

Not really. Most communities actually enforce their development ordinances, and there are more hoops to jump through.

Carol Bowen 4 years ago

"The reputation Lawrence has as unfriendly has chased away all big builders from out of town. Much easier, faster, and cheaper to get things done in other towns."

Ann Hamil 4 years ago

Why is it that the city has to buy the Salvation Army to tear it down for a green space and sculpture area for the art center, when this vacant lot is already vacant?

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

Everything is for sale in this world, you just have to name the right price...

George_Braziller 4 years ago

Salvation Army also owns the empty lot between the Arts Center and the current Salvation Army building. That's the type of transition or something similar that should be going on at the other end of the block.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

You forgot to tell him to hold his breath and stomp his feet.

repaste 4 years ago

s Doug the guy who killed the Zebra? The guy who pulls the hundred bills while drinking it up with college boys? " Hello, What are you drinking, do you need a job?" " Drink up!"

ljwhirled 4 years ago

Why should we subsidize him just because he is rich?

This idea that if we just lick the boots of the rich they will pee on us and maybe pass some money down is simply insane.

Did anyone else pay attention in Econ 104? Seriously. Anyone?

COjayrocks 4 years ago

Why should we not subsidize him because he is rich?

jafs 4 years ago

And there we have the perfect description of why we shouldn't be helping developers.

If we don't help them this is the attitude we get on the other side, recommending tax evasion, a spiteful course of action, and using the bankruptcy laws to get out of debts while remaining rich.

Thank you.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

Another person who doesn't understand. The city is paying nothing out of pocket, guaranteeing nothing, and isn't proposing doing what the power n light did. The developer will fund the tif and pay it back with the taxes. If the taxes underperform, the developer is on the hook, not the city.

Oread ws done the same way. They were approved for $12 mil tif but only took a $7 mil tif because the numbers showed that was all they could support.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

I'd still like to know if you'd give every new property improvement the same deal.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

If it enhances downtown, yes. Our downtown is headed towards being another Westport. Unless we encourage infill development near downtown and get a larger population living near/in downtown, it will continue to have vacancies that only bars and restaurants will fill. Get more people living downtown, and all the businesses will prosper, which will be good for Lawrence.

Ever notice how many restaurants downtown are now open past 2 am? They are busier after 2 am than they are during the entire lunch and dinner time.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

"Unless we encourage infill development near downtown and get a larger population living near/in downtown,"

The E. Lawrence neighborhood is close to downtown. Destroying the livability of that neighborhood with developments like this will have exactly the opposite effect that you claim you're for.

flyin_squirrel 4 years ago

Chad, please write a detailed article describing how a TIF, CID, neighborhood revitalization act, star bond, etc... Work, and put in the pro's and con's so people understand what they are commenting on.

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

Oh, heck, get some outside consultants and whiz away a few hundred grand doing another study.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

What does the 9th and New Hampshire proposal teach us about our development controls?

Lawrence lacks proper development controls. The absence of proper controls prevents the City from reviewing major projects and allows developers to dictate the pace of growth. This is a mistake.

Quick history:

The City Commission will hear an appeal of the decision of the HRC. The scope of the City Commission’s review is narrow. It is to determine whether or not the owner of the property can develop feasible projects under current zoning that will not harm adjacent historic properties. In this setting, feasibility means that a development will earn enough cash flow to attract investors. Generally, this cash flow has to return about 10 percent annually over a period of 10 years.

There is little question that feasible alternatives exist. Three-story projects are feasible if no parking garage is included. Town Peterson demonstrates this in his submission to the City Commission. If a parking garage is added to the development, then a project is probably not feasible without deep subsidy.

The report from Springsted finds that subsidy will be needed to make a project feasible if it contains a parking garage.

The City Commission cannot, in good conscience, find that no feasible alternative exists under current zoning. It is clear that a three-story retail/office facility will generate a competitive return on investment.

To the developer, the problem is not the percentage return on investment with a three-story project; it is the dollar amount of profit. The developers can make more money with a larger development that includes five or six stories, a hotel, and a parking garage with that garage paid for by the taxpayers.

How did Lawrence get into this problem?

Lawrence is in this problem because of a lack of proper development controls. Because the zoning did not end with the death of the Downtown 2000 project, the City has lost much of its capacity to control this project.

Some version of the proposal at 9th and New Hampshire may be a development that the City, the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association, the Historic Resources Commission and the community at large may all support. But we will never know under the current development controls because there is no opportunity to debate the project. There is constrained review of its impact on adjacent historic properties, but the HRC review is not supposed to go beyond this narrow issue. Assuming that the developers will seek deep subsidies on the property, there will be some debate over whether or not the project should be given costly subsidies, but again, the debate will be unfairly narrowed to this topic.

The process as being played out now will not permit the community to weigh in on the height of this project, the timing of this project nor the impact of the project on our downtown and other hotel projects.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

What should be done about this problem?

Lawrence needs a set of development controls that permit the City to dictate not only the height, bulk and use of a project but also the timing of when these projects are built.

Zoning dictates the height bulk and use of a project. Clearly our zoning does not do this well. The current proposal seeks to go higher than the rules permit, but this decision is not reviewed by the Planning Commission or the City Commission. The development controls of the city should mandate that any significant project must go through review by the Planning Commission with a public hearing procedure.

Lawrence needs a set of development controls that allow it to set the pace of growth. In this, the City is woefully lacking. The City’s development controls assume that once zoned, the private market knows best how to time development. We are now in the fifth year of a real estate driven recession because of the error of this assumption.

Lawrence is paying the price for letting the development community dictate the pace of growth.

Lawrence’s retail space grew faster than retail spending. From 1997 to 2007, retail spending grew by 26% but new space added 36% to the stock of space, producing over 500,000 square feet of surplus space. The surplus resulted in chronic vacancies downtown, along 23rd Street and in various neighborhood centers.

The market has consumed about one-half of that surplus, but with the current economic downturn, it will take a long time to work through the remainder of the surplus. Yet the City continues to approve more retail space as if the problem does not exist.

Lawrence’s housing stock expanded faster than the growth in its population. From 2000 to 2007, the counts of households grew by 4,500, but developers built 5,700 housing units, creating a surplus of 1,200 units. The surplus is equivalent to a dozen large subdivisions, enough to cover the city’s needs for more than 6 years, devastating the housing industry.

Now the City is confronting a similar problem with its hotels. The taxpayers invested $11 million in the Oread Hotel. The City has an interest in the Eldridge Hotel surviving because it uniquely defines our historic downtown. Recently the City approved zoning for a hotel as part of the North Mass Development. The City is rezoning property at 6th Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway for a sports complex with a retail shopping center and a hotel. As if all of this is not enough, the developers of 9th and New Hampshire propose yet another hotel.

The City lacks development controls that place it in a position to: 1.) Determine that pace at which it can absorb new space, and 2.) Regulate the pace of new construction so as to prevent overbuilding.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Welcome to Lawrence,Kansas the tax dollar money hole for reckless spending government. Where the owners of the tax dollars have little to no say.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

Since on 12% or so of the voters bother to vote, it is hard to make a case that they have "no say"

If you want to express your

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

By the way according to Radio news Legends special nonsense tax packages are not working out so well for the county..... as it turns out.

Local Tax Payers Over Extended!!! Time for the real estate executives and developers to foot the bills for their own projects.

Taxpayers should be allowed to vote for or against all new capital improvement projects and rate increases. Nothing moves forward without voter approval. This would include USD 497.

New capital improvement projects are in fact increasing the tax bills. There is no way to get a budget under control when there is constant new expansion of the infrastructure.

Adding miles and miles of new water and sewer lines is no way to rein the budget. Adding more and more homes for trash service will never allow the budget to become stable.

No one has a clue when the economy will bounce back if ever so why are commissioners approving new tax increases by way of new capital improvements and tax dollar give aways.

Where is the hard evidence that Lawrence taxpayers support these nonsense tax incentives?

Where is the hard evidence that Lawrence taxpayers can afford these nonsense tax incentives.

Dan Eyler 4 years ago

Look at it like this and you can determine who is getting the better shake. Your homeless shelter is moving to my neighborhood and a very nice well done business moving into yours. Lawrence will need the jobs and the average wage to work in this new business will be higher than the majority of businesses on Mass. The place isn't going to fail and it isn't going to change the historical value of old Lawrence. Drive the neighborhood and convince me how this can hurt the area. Of course there is historical value to the down town area, but junk is junk. Even in Lawrence junk doesn't always hold it's value, historically or financially. We hear a lot of talk from the east Lawrence neighborhood association about the historical value of their neighborhood. The neighborhood association needs to focus more on cleaning up it's own house. The area isn't looking all that good and this might raise the awareness and standards of those who claim historical rights. but in the mean time the place is falling down around you.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years ago

" The area isn't looking all that good"

Yet another straw man argument. Just because it isn't cookie-cutter, ticky-tacky bland like your neighborhood doesn't mean that the neighborhood is falling apart. Sure, there are some neglected houses here and there, but by far the majority of houses in the neighborhood are in relatively good shape. And the block immediately to the east of this proposed hotel is in generally very good condition, and getting better.

BTW, the location of the homeless shelter is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

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