Archive for Wednesday, May 16, 2012

City agrees to annex land for new recreation center in northwest Lawrence

May 16, 2012


Lawrence city commissioners unanimously approved a major annexation request Tuesday that is expected to be a key cog in a plan to build a regional recreation sports complex in northwest Lawrence.

But commissioners also said they understand the public wants more details about a possible public-private partnership for a recreation center, and said that such details would be coming soon.

“If this project happens, it will be because we talk to the neighbors, we talk to the public, and it is a benefit to everyone,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell. “If that is not the case, then this project won’t happen. I can promise you there has been no backroom deal here.”

Commissioners at their weekly meeting approved a request to annex 146 acres at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The property’s ownership group, which is led by Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada, has offered to donate 50 of the acres to the city to house a public-private regional recreation complex that would include indoor gym space and outdoor track and field facilities for Kansas University.

Several members of the public urged commissioners to delay action on the annexation until more details have been worked out about how much the recreation center may cost and who may operate the facility.

“I see a commission that isn’t protecting my interests,” Greg Robinson, a Lawrence resident told commissioners. “I see a commission that is running to a developer to get something done.”

But commissioners said the annexation does not commit the city to extend water and sewer service to the site if the idea for a recreation center falls through. Commissioners, however, were told the annexation does make the city more liable for improvements to portions of U.S. Highway 40 west of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

But City Manager David Corliss said the city likely would have to tackle such improvements at some point because the road is at a major gateway to the community. Ultimately commissioners sided with the city staff members who recommended the site be annexed regardless of whether the recreation center project moves forward. Staff members said that the site’s location at the intersection of two state highways made it a prime spot for future development, and annexation was the way to ensure that development occurs under the city’s regulations.

As for the recreation center project, commissioners said they likely would not take any more land-use actions on the site until they get firm details about the size, scope and costs of a public-private recreation complex.

“The business plan needs to be well-developed before I vote for the zoning on this property,” Mayor Bob Schumm said. “The zoning is what will really commit us.”

Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners are set to hear a commercial zoning request for the property at their Monday evening meeting.

Commissioners also announced they tentatively have set June 6 as the date to hold a public meeting to discuss a concept plan for the recreation complex. The meeting is set for the Free State High School commons area. A time for the event hasn’t been finalized yet.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

The annexation did not need to happen last night in spite of the rhetoric. It could have been done in August,September or December. And it appears taxpayers may well be getting only 25 acres of useful property out of the 50.

What this rec center project does need is voter/taxpayer approval before moving forward. Voters want to be a part of this decision.

"Expanding the tax base" was heard last night. Isn't this what we hear frequently? This project will be expanding tax payer liability long before taxpayers see any money back. There is one consequence of helter skelter aimless growth that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

NOT necessary city growth is the result of over several decades of subsidies paid for by the local taxpayer. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads as well as smaller ones-like the tax-breaks that encourage businesses to move to the edge of town and KILL downtowns.

We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving development.

How we subsidize profiteers and not necessary development: building new and wider roads building schools on the fringe extending sewer and water lines to not necessary development extending emergency services to the fringe

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

"Voters want to be a part of this decision"

I'm trying to recall what the voter turnout was in the last local election. I think it was 16%. While you may want this put to a vote, I doubt if the general public gives a hoot.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

“I see a commission that isn’t protecting my interests,” Greg Robinson." Mr Robinson was concerned about "getting the cart before the horse" on many aspects of this project.

What this rec center project does need is voter/taxpayer approval before moving forward. Voters want to be a part of this decision not get left out. Respect the taxpayers allow them their right to vote.

I want to thank Greg Robinson and Ron Schneider for speaking up on behalf of the taxpayers which obviously needed substantial representation.

Also a huge thanks to spokes people Kirk McClure and Gwendolyn L. Klingenberg who represent Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods and the taxpayers of this community.

Keep remembering that some of the largest retail projects in Lawrence,Kansas have failed as a result of poor planning, more than shoppers can support and mountains of speculation. Such as the Riverfront Plaza,Tanger Mall and Baur Farms at 6th and Wakarusa. There are plans on the table for a repeat of Riverfront Plaza on the other side of the bridge.

What this rec center project does need is voter/taxpayer approval before moving forward. Voters want to be a part of this decision not get left out. Respect the taxpayers allow them their right to vote.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

merrill, by google's count, you've copy/pasted the text containing "NOT necessary city growth is the result of over" 42 times on this and other websites. What do you think you are accomplishing by continuing to post that?

pace 5 years, 7 months ago

I bet your boring carping about Merril beats that number by far. The links are pertinent to the subject, you whining about your personal emotions, not so much.

Keith 5 years, 7 months ago

You have to give him some leeway, he's been lost since Marion was banished.

midwestmom 5 years, 7 months ago

Bob Schumm is talking out of both sides of his mouth. You talk about the zoning of an unimproved piece of land, but its ok for you to have a vacant lot on Mass categorized as agricultural so you can avoid paying taxes. I don't fully understand the city cost/benefit obligations land donation/annexation issue (yet) but I do understand 'cheating', Bob. How goes the tomato crop? We grew tomatoes, too - but we still paid the correct tax for our property, because it is the right thing to do.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

This is more about bringing back "boom town economics" to the real estate and home building industry which loved the big time inflated prices on housing. This is dead and never to return we can only hope.

Now after 30 some years of "expanding the tax base" where is the tax relief to homeowners? Where are rebates to homeowners? In Lawrence expanding the tax base has always been political rhetoric not substance. Instead we have consistently received expanded tax bills.

No one has any clue that this project will in fact produce powerful numbers in the area of "tourism and home sales". Nothing but speculation and plenty of it.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

The rec centers cost factors should should have been known before annexation took place. Taxpayers do not need to own this land necessarily. Taxpayers own the land at the fertilizer site which sits on a four lane roadway. This site makes dollars and sense for taxpayers which is the bottom line.

All of the ducks do not seem to be in a row. Perhaps that should have come first.

In the meantime:

One group that doesn’t have a very good sense about what the future holds for the project is the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

The board has been the chief advocate for a new city recreation center that would serve the western part of the city. The board met earlier this week, and made it clear it still had questions about whether this proposed public-private partnership really would serve the recreational needs of the community or whether it would be tilted toward attracting regional tournaments and sporting events.

The hope, of course, is the facility can serve both needs. City commissioners I’ve talked to have said the need for the center to function as a community recreation center is important. Whether that will mean a certain amount of gyms and space in the center will be set aside solely for city recreational use, however, isn’t clear.

City parks and recreation staff members told the advisory board they didn’t have an answer on that issue.

“Scheduling is going to be so important of an issue,” Mark Hecker, the city’s parks superintendent told the board. “We really need to get that issue figured out before it is determined who is paying for what.”

As one person at the meeting mentioned, if the entire facility is routinely fully occupied for regional tournaments on the prime days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday: "Why would the city pay much for that?”

City officials might counter with the point that those regional tournaments will be bringing in lots of money to the city’s economy, which makes it an effort worth receiving city tax dollars.

Board members said that brings the issue back to the key questions: What’s the vision for the facility, and who is it really designed to serve?

“I think we’re at the point we want to make sure that whatever funds the city puts into this, we want to remember what it is the public has asked for in a recreation center,” Hecker said.

However the city fathers must remember that KCMO/JOCO metro and Topeka have been doing tournaments and such for years and years. Are they going to roll over so Lawrence can steal away their economic growth and sales tax revenue?

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

Wow, I'd swear that I saw that same old copy/paste on another thread on this award-winning website just a couple of minutes ago.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

USD 497 has already spent $20 million tax dollars on this PLAY project that seems will never go away. Can we say money hole on the horizon?

Flap Doodle 5 years, 7 months ago

Another 5 year old link!!!!!! Can we say moldy oldie? (from a source)

blindrabbit 5 years, 7 months ago

As Joni Mitchell sang so well in "Big Yellow Taxi" , "They Tore Down Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot" What a sacrilege on the proposed Rec. Center site : This land actually traversed by The Oregon Trail, soaked with the blood and sweat of the trail pioneers will become a parking lot soaked with the oil and grease of dripping cars on the lot. And to make matters worse, the land to the East (Elkin Prairie) was sacrificed many years ago in the dead of the night by a fleet of John Deeres'. Maybe someone on either piece will be thoughtful enough to incorporate some space for a "walking Oregon Trail" into the property design. Development and history can go hand in hand. Come on Schwada's , Lawrence and K.U. show some moxie!

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

"They (paved) paradise... Love that song.

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