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City rethinks retail zoning

September 25, 2012


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.


hipper_than_hip 1 year, 6 months ago

De-annexation is available to the City, which might be the way to go to avoid a lawsuit with the developer. The State passed legislation this summer than if property is annexed into a city and improvements are not made in a certain amount of time (seven years I think), the property owner can file for de-annexation.

The City, County, and Chamber are all complaining about the lack of industrial sites in Douglas County, and here's several hundred acres that are designated for industrial by development plan; why are we considering anything other than industrial for this area?


LogicMan 1 year, 6 months ago

That NW corner would make for a good big box and restaurant site to capture some commuters' tax dollars. And for future residential growth on that side of town. Menards/Lowes, SuperTarget, etc.


Joe Adams 1 year, 6 months ago

Good for Schwada for forcing the commission's hands. If that area is going to be annexed into Lawrence, it needs to have zoning. The homeowners around there would prefer retail and it's not like we have 200,000 sq ft of retail sitting open in one section with access to K-10 and 6th St. I can't imagine it being anything but retail, unless of course they think we need more apartments over there? Schwada should hold strong on his big box lots and wait for something to happen because he jumped through a lot of hoops to make it happen. But I get it, lets not make 6th St at K-10 a retail area like on south 23rd because we'd rather have industrial development?!?


Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

December 2003 LJW - my how things don't change even with new faces ( the Chamber of Commerce is lurking about offering the same nonsense rhetoric)

Do you think Lawrence is annexing new areas too quickly?

Yes. Doing so creates pressure to develop the land more quickly because the owners have to begin paying city taxes. 58% 141 votes

No. The city is staying out in front of the development with a “smart growth” approach that helps provide city services to new developments. 35% 86 votes

Undecided 5% 13 votes

Food for thought.... with increased annexation and zoning you have increased expectations on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by empty properties does not pay for the services they EXPECT from a municipality. Empty buildings do not generate the necessary revenues either.

Hello long time residential property owners we need more of your money like it or not.


MacHeath 1 year, 6 months ago

If the Schwada's cared about the community as much as their own pockets, they would build the rec center at their own expense, knowing that they would easily make it back on retail development. I am sure Schwada thinks his stuff doesn't stink...he always has.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

Some or all elected officials are under the impression that because they are elected we taxpayers gave them a free hand to spend tax dollars anyway they see fit. I disagree.

It is my position that more referendums should be offered up for we taxpayers to be the ultimate decision makers. Some projects will make and some will not.


hipper_than_hip 1 year, 6 months ago

According to the West of K-10 plan, the NW corner of the intersection is supposed to be zoned industrial. Did the developer offer to donate land for the rec center so he could get the zoning changed from industrial to retail and bypass the planning document?

Too bad the Planning Commission didn’t make the retail zoning conditional on the rec center actually happening in that location……


Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

If I were a city commissioner I would be requesting voters be brought into this final decision process frequently. A menu of items could be drawn up each November and/or April for taxpayer approval. Taxpayers are not as dumb as politicians wish to believe.

Some commissioners have short memories. Tanger Mall,Riverfront Plaza and Baur Farms "New Urbanism" were going to be magnificent retail successes. Instead these retail concepts have been borne out as colossal failures.

Monday night at a discussion on the sports village the City manager ,Mayor and two commissioners were reminded of these colossal failures.

On each of these projects elected officials were advised that the Lawrence retail markets were saturated. And are saturated as we speak. Elected officials were being advised that Lawrence,Kansas only has so many retail dollars available. There is plenty of evidence to support both which is represented by the failures.

City commissioners were asked NOT to rezone or annex this 146 acres until there were concrete plans on the table. No such animal was anywhere to be seen. Now it appears the city commission has its' butt in a jam. Apparently they have recalled the zoning which is a legitimate action. Will this commission cave under pressure? Historically the answer is yes.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

Monday night at the library on a discussion about the sports village the City Manager,Mayor and at least two city commissioners heard calls for voter approval many times. Why the resistance?

If I were a city commissioner I would be requesting voters be brought into this final decision process frequently. A menu of items could be drawn up each November and/or April for taxpayer approval. Taxpayers are not as dumb as politicians wish to believe.

I read that available cheaper borrowed money brings on irrational spending. We see this behavior applied to this parking lot and the "Sports Village".

We see this behavior is allowing our local markets to become saturated whether it be housing,retail,sports facilities,warehousing etc etc etc etc.

It is my feeling that we taxpayers have been railroaded by "we've got to plan ahead" or "we've got to take risks" lines of nonsense for far to long. This is wreckanomics applied locally.

Which is why it makes dollars and sense for the voters to take over in the final decision process. I do not believe any elected official can claim special features about themselves that allow them "to know" which project will pay back ever. Pure speculation is simply not enough. Lawrence voters are as endowed as any elected official. Believe it.

Now is NOT the time to be adding NEW large tax dollar projects to our tax bills without voter approval.

Is the economy back yet? Will the economy crash again as a result of republicans playing a huge game of fraud? Many people believe this Bush/Cheney fiasco will take more years than ever to heal.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 6 months ago

They. sure do play games. And we are to trust them?


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