News and notes from around town:
• UPDATE: This just in from the Douglas County Courthouse. Nancy Thellman has filed for re-election to the Douglas County Commission. Thellman, a Democrat, represents the Second District, which includes parts of Lawrence and much of eastern Douglas County.
Candidates have until June 1 to file for the position. If needed, a primary election will be on Aug. 7. The general election will take place on Nov. 6.
• Junk Wars. It sounds like a new reality television show on the History Channel. (Heck yeah, I’d watch that.) But until then, I think we’ll just have to settle for watching the salvage yard business in Lawrence unfold.
As we have previously reported, two salvage companies have plans for major operations in Lawrence. The 12th and Haskell Recycling Center has purchased property to move its business to an industrial site northeast of 11th and Haskell.
But the big game-changer in the market may be Advantage Metals, a large national salvage company based out of Kansas City. We reported in March that it filed plans to build a new salvage operation at the former Kaw Valley Salvage Yard site at 1545 N. Third St., which is just southwest of the Tee Pee Junction in North Lawrence.
Well, there has been a little bit of news with that project. It has had to file an new application with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning office. The old Kaw Valley Salvage site, which has been vacant since 2009, currently is just outside the Lawrence city limits. Advantage had sought to keep it that way, but planners have said the property ought to be annexed because it is adjacent to the city limits and has easy access to city utilities.
That means the 12-acre piece of property will need to be rezoned to the city industrial zoning classification of IG, which is the city’s heavy-duty industrial zoning category. It also means the project will have to receive a special use permit from city commissioners, where before it would have needed to win approval with county commissioners. City commissioners caught a lot of flak about how the 12th and Haskell salvage yard wasn’t well-planned, so it will be interesting to see what type of process this new business goes through. The last time I talked to North Lawrence neighborhood leaders, though, they were supportive of the project. That’s likely, in part, because the site isn’t particularly close to any residences, and the project would likely clean up what has become a bit of an eyesore.
As far as the plans themselves, I don’t think they have changed much from March. They include removing the three northern-most buildings on the old Kaw metals site, and replacing them with a new 14,400 square-foot building. The project also will eliminate one of the the three curb cuts the site currently has along North Third Street.
I never have had any luck in getting a representative of the company to return a call, but it appears the business will take all types of metal. What’s less clear is whether it will take glass, plastic and other such materials.
• As my wife can attest, when it comes to matters of junk, I rarely stop with just one item.
So, news item No. 2 about the salvage business. As promised, the owner of the 12th and Haskell Recycling Center has filed a detailed site plan and application for a special use permit to move his business to 1050 E. 11th and 1000 E. 11th. As we reported earlier this month, 12th and Haskell owner Bo Killough has purchased those two industrial properties, which used to house the Polk Crane company.
The site plan calls for $300,000 worth of new construction, including a new building, truck scales, parking lot upgrades and various other site amenities. All the improvements will be on the 1000 E. 11th site, which is a 5.25 acre lot that is a ways off of 11th Street and is adjacent to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Tracks.
That lot also will be where all the outside storage of salvaged materials occurs. The site of 1050 E. 11th consists of a standard metal industrial shop building, and the plan calls for no changes to that facility.
The site plan is configured to have a drive-up area for residents to drop off plastic, glass, chipboard and other recyclable material that currently many residents have to take to the Walmart recycling center on South Iowa Street.
It will be interesting to see whether neighborhood interests end up opposing this plan. I have heard from one neighborhood resident who has followed the issue that has noted the site isn’t all that far away from the new Poehler apartments development. By my reckoning, it is about two to three blocks away, but as city commissioners can attest, close is a relative concept in these sort of land-use issues.
But as Killough notes in his application, the property is surrounded by railroad-owned land on three sides, and on the other side of the railroad tracks is the city’s sewage treatment plant. So, I would expect an argument will be made that if you can’t put a salvage yard in this spot, where can you put one in the city of Lawrence?
The fact this application comes forward at the same time the North Lawrence project does adds another twist. If the city doesn’t approve this site but does approve the North Lawrence site, which is basically at one of the entrance points into the city, that likely will raise some eyebrows.
• Before we get off the issue of junk, it is worth noting that there is a third player in all of this. Lonnie’s Recycling, 501 Maple, has been a longtime business in North Lawrence. No word on how that operation may change to adapt to the new market.
The other big change that may be coming to recycling in Lawrence is the idea of curbside recycling. My understanding is City Hall officials are getting very close to submitting a host of trash and recycling issues to city commissioners to consider.
City Manager David Corliss said his office may have memos to present to city commissioners by the June 5 City Commission meeting or shortly thereafter.
I would expect city commissioners to deal with two issues: 1. Whether it wants to convert its trash service over to a system that mandates the use of plastic trash carts instead of standard trash cans. If commissioners are interested — and I believe they are — they’ll go out to bid for several thousand carts. 2. Commissioners also will likely get their first look at various options for structuring a curbside recycling program. This issue isn’t as fully developed as the cart issue. I think commissioners have more questions about the financial feasibility of curbside recycling than they do with the cart proposal, which means the next step likely will be to request some proposals from the private sector. Those proposals should give the city a better idea about the financial issues involved with starting a curbside program.
Regardless, I did recently have a Town Talk reader ask me for advice on whether he should give into his wife’s pestering (his description, not mine) and buy a new trash cart. My advice is hold strong, fellow tightwad. If the city moves ahead with the cart plan, you won’t be able to use your privately purchased carts for trash, although they still may come in handy for setting out yard waste. I also use my extra cart as a wardrobe for those nights when I sleep in the garage after bringing home one too many pieces of junk from the auction.
• Town Talk, of course, will be off on Monday to celebrate Memorial Day. I will be making a trip to an area cemetery to pay respects. But I’ll also be partaking in a less traditional Memorial Day activity: the Douglas County 4-H Spring Pig Show. My son is raising a 4-H pig for the first time this year, and the weigh-in is this weekend. Thus, the countdown to the Aug. 4 livestock auction begins, which is one auction that if I come home with more items than I left with, I really will be sleeping in the garage.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day.