Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2012

Editorial: Untimely issue

October 28, 2012


Lawrence city officials may be completely justified in requiring developers of a downtown hotel project to survey their site to determine whether it is an unmarked burial ground for several black soldiers killed in Quantrill’s Raid, but the issue should have been raised much earlier in the process.

While city commissioners already had moved ahead to a discussion of major traffic revisions at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, the city’s planning staff was sitting on a letter from the state archeologist that might make developers reconsider their decision to build a hotel project on the southeast corner of that intersection. If the city were going to require developers to incur the additional time and expense of test excavations to look for burial sites at that location, the developers had a right to know that before the project had progressed this far. This is the kind of interaction that has caused the city to be criticized as not friendly to business development. One of developers’ most frequent complaints about the city planning process is that the rules keep changing as a project moves forward.

The situation with the possible burial site seems to be largely a matter of poor communication. Several opponents of the hotel project raised the issue during discussions of the project, but neither city commissioners nor the city’s Historic Resources Commission apparently were made aware that the state archeologist had notified City Manager David Corliss back in March that the state wanted to discuss doing test excavations on the site before any development permits were approved. The project has been approved by both the Historic Resources Commission and city commissioners, who also approved a $12 million incentive package for the project in July.

Through all of this process, city planning staff members were saying nothing about the letter from the state archeologist because they had decided that the question didn’t need to be raised until months later when a building permit or site plan for the project was being considered. Now, city officials are saying they are likely to require the developers of the project to do test excavations at the site. It’s easy to understand why developers would be displeased by this prospect. The rules may not have changed during the approval process, but the developers weren’t made aware of this potential wrinkle in a timely manner. Even if planners didn’t mean this to be an impediment, the timing of the excavation requirement gives the impression they are changing the rules or, even worse, seeking to stymie the project.

Lawrence certainly should be conscious and protective of its important history, and examining this site for pre-Civil War remains may be a worthy endeavor, but the manner in which this was handled by the city leaves much to be desired.


William McCauley 5 years, 8 months ago

Corliss and Scott McCullough need to be replaced with someone new, along with a few other dept heads and some staff. A big clean sweep of city hall would be good so we could have fresh people, from outside the local circles..... would be nice.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Hmm, the developers have known of these potential graves from the git-go. So if they weren't going to be required to exhume these bodies respectfully, were they just going dig them up with a big shovel or bulldozer and use them as fill at some other First Management project?

5 years, 8 months ago

Yes we had brought this up months ago, I do not know why it finally has become a serious issue to be considered now, but i am grateful that it will be dealt with in an appropriate way now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

Your question has been answered numerous times-- the area where the graves are believed to be has never been built on.

So, yes, next fake issue.

ksgardener 5 years, 8 months ago

Maybe they should re build the Varsity House at that location.

David Reynolds 5 years, 8 months ago

Chad Lawhorn's "Town Topic" article states: "The letter from the state archeologist said his research did find a 1903 Kansas University master’s thesis by Lizzie Goodnight that stated “a number of people killed during Quantrill’s raid were buried in the foundation trench of a church that was under construction at the time.”

If that is true, those bodies were desecrated 150 years ago. If there was a church on that site it is likely those bodies were removed when the foundation was dug up and removed. Whatever the status of the remains of those soldiers it can't be much.

I agree with the plaque idea above, assuming this lot is the site of the church mentioned by the archeologist.

Orwell 5 years, 8 months ago

"…it is likely those bodies were removed when the foundation was dug up and removed."

Only possible, not likely, unless you know something the rest of us don't.

A prudent developer, having been made aware of even a possibility of historically significant human remains, would have pushed for official resolution one way or the other at the outset.

5 years, 8 months ago

AME church were just in the process of building a trench to be the foundation of their church near the corner of 9th & NH. very shortly after quantrills raid, the church abandoned that site and began construction at their current location of 9th & NY.

in the years since, there has been a house on this lot, but what is interesting is that this house was set way, way back towards the alley line, not in line with the houses that were around it.

the gas station that existed at the actual corner of 9th & NH until perhaps 20 years ago was built on slab construction. the tanks would have been below ground along 9th street.

so yes, it is very conceivable that that ground where the mass grave may or may not be, could have been undisturbed since 1863.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Anyone have a cost estimate? Anyone suggesting who should pay this money? Anyone think any cost should be capped at a certain amount and what that amount should be? Anyone think a time limit should be set for this search?

5 years, 8 months ago

jhawkinsf, perhaps you should call the state archaeologist and find out what the standard procedure is? that way you could educate the property owner, the developer, city hall, yourself, the neighborhood and any other interested parties as well. much appreciated!

Terry Sexton 5 years, 8 months ago

We are all destined for the dig. Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

verity 5 years, 8 months ago

Call me old fashioned (along with liberal, radical, pinko communist whatever, oh, and don't forget, socialist), but in our culture we are generally taught to respect the final resting place of the dead. Also, if people were buried there, it is of historical significance.

The question is why was the letter from the state archeologist not made public immediately. Something smells really fishy here.

waitjustaminute 5 years, 8 months ago

Whatever the reason was to withhold the letter from the State, we have an obligation to find out if human remains are buried there. That is a moral, spiritual, ethical, psychological, and socially responsible obligation. And yes, regardless of the outcome, a corner stone, plaque, marker should be mandatory in the building plans. For all the right reasons this town cherishes its history. So do the right thing, find out, make the right decisions, and then move forward. (This short editorial comment does not reflect the views of the management, responsible replies are welcomed.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

What difference does it make if the letter from the state got passed along to the developers early in the process? They've known about the potential graves all along. If they haven't been planning on dealing with them in a respectful way all along, that's pretty effed up, don't you think?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

As opposed to the respectful way they've been dealt with since their death.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

What's your point? That because someone/everyone hasn't had parades and memorial ceremonies on whatever schedule you deem necessary and appropriate, they should now just become fill wherever FM decides to dump them?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

My point is that you, Bozo, haven't cared a flip about the graves ever since you knew about them but suddenly you think it's effed up that others don't spend tens of thousands of dollars to treat them with dignity and respect. Can you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

No, your real point is that you don't give a flip about what happens to whomever might be buried down there because the construction of this hotel is ideologically so important to you. It doesn't matter to you that the developers have known about them for the whole discussion of this project, but you'll squeal like a stuck pig if someone suggests that they do the right thing once they put their shovels and bulldozers to work.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

No Bozo, my point is that you knew about the graves, or more precisely, the (maybe) graves, and you've done nothing to provide the dignity and respect those (maybe) graves deserve all the while demanding others give the (maybe) graves dignity and respect. Your position is nothing more than a cynical attempt to delay, stop, hinder, a project you oppose. Those (maybe) graves never were a concern to you and your feigned concern is as transparent as it is hypocritical.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm not the one intending to dig them up and use them as fill.

"Those (maybe) graves never were a concern to you and your feigned concern is as transparent as it is hypocritical."

Trying to tell me what is or isn't of concern to me is a dead-end argument made in pure desperation. Grow up.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Quite frankly, Bozo, had this issue been brought up months ago by opponents like you, I would have believed your concern to be genuine. But having said you knew of the (maybe) graves and said nothing about them in the many months this topic has been discussed tells me one of two things to be true. Either you're a liar when you said you were aware of the (maybe) graves or you're simply grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to slow a project you're opposed to.

The fact is, Bozo, your silence about this issue has been deafening. As has been your lack of taking any specific action to show respect and dignity for these (maybe) graves. Now having shown no respect, no dignity, having expressed no concern, you're suddenly asking others to act, you're asking others to show the very respect and dignity you refused to offer.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

The more important question is why you don't care.

I asked this question of jhawkins a while back (and he refused to answer it.) Should we dig up all the civil war graves at Arlington National Cemetery, too? It would be prime real estate in the DC area, wouldn't you think? And after all, they are just 200-year-old bones (going with your rather suspect math here.)

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

Liar, liar, pants on fire, Bozo. I did not refuse to answer your question. I said I was not familiar with the issue. Just as I said I was not familiar with the issue of these (maybe) graves until just a few days ago. That said, I did say that there might be times when known graves could be moved but that it should be carried out with the utmost respect and sensitivity. (Don't you remember, Bozo, as is typical for you, you misinterpreted my comment by saying I was in favor of sending in the bulldozers. Remember? Reading comprehension and memory are two of your many problems if you think respect and sensitivity equals send in the bulldozers). And yes, I think there is a huge difference between handling sites with known graves and sites where (maybe) graves are speculated about. And the gap between those two positions is widened when those who speculate about (maybe) graves have a separate agenda that lessens their credibility.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

" I said I was not familiar with the issue."

It was a hypothetical, not an issue. And you gave no rationale whatsoever why these graves should be dug up in the name of "progress," while similar graves in Arlington should not.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 8 months ago

As I said, I wasn't familiar with the issue. Nor was I familiar with your hypothetical, since you didn't frame your question as a hypothetical. But here's the deal, Bozo. Graves have been moved in the past. Entire graveyards have been moved. If done, it should be done with the utmost respect and sensitivity. Not with bulldozers. Dignity and respect. But those are known graves. Suspected (maybe) graves, offered by people with a separate agenda, may be treated very differently.

verity 5 years, 7 months ago

If we don't know who might be there, then the families don't know or there might not have been any families, at least not around here. They still deserve respect, no matter what. And it is of historical significance.

PS What does being an atheist (your previous comment) have to do with anything about this story?

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