No, Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday didn’t yet again change their mind on where a new northwest Lawrence sports complex should be located.
But at their weekly meeting, commissioners did change their position on whether additional retail zoning on property near the proposed sports complex site should be considered.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to rescind their action from last week that withdrew a request to rezone 146 acres on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway for retail uses.
The northwest corner previously was targeted by the city to house a combination city-Kansas University sports complex, plus additional retail components such as hotels, restaurants and gasoline stations. But that plan fell apart after KU officials earlier this month said they were no longer interested in the site, and instead were pursuing plans for a sports complex east of the South Lawrence Trafficway on property that is just north of the northeast corner.
So, the plans for a sports complex on the northwest corner may be dead, but the idea for a new retail center may not be. Commissioners on Tuesday did not approve the retail zoning, but instead sent the rezoning request back to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission for a new recommendation.
“We’ve moved the recreation center, but we haven’t moved it far,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter. “It is just a stone’s throw away.”
That’s a different tone than what commissioners had last week, when, on a 4-1 vote, commissioners agreed to withdraw the request for retail zoning at the site. Commissioners last week did not indicate what the property, which is already in the city limits, should be zoned.
The property is owned by a group led by Lawrence businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada, and a representative for the group urged commissioners on Tuesday to simply approve the rezoning now. Lawrence attorney Jane Eldredge noted the Planning Commission and the city’s planning staff already have recommended approval of the retail zoning for the corner once.
Eldredge contends their recommendations weren’t contingent upon a new recreation center being built on the property. City commissioners, though, said they want planners to provide a recommendation now that they know a recreation center won’t be on the site.
Eldredge has argued the regional sports complex will suffer if additional retail zoning isn’t allowed at the intersection. The requested zoning would allow for up to 200,000 square feet of new retail space.
The City Commission meeting also took on a legal feel to it Tuesday. Eldredge hired a court reporter to attend the meeting. After the meeting, she stopped short of saying the reporter was on hand because her clients were contemplating legal action against the city.
“We just want to make sure we have a good, clear record in the event that we need one,” Eldredge said.