Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Planning commission votes to defer decision on Menards for one month

April 22, 2013


A plan to build a Menards home improvement center near near 31st and Iowa streets remained alive Tuesday night, but only after planning commissioners made a last-minute decision to measure twice and cut once on the project.

After more than five hours of discussion, Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioners voted to defer action on the project for a month. Just moments before, however, a majority of commissioners were ready to reject the proposal for an approximately 190,000-square-foot Menards store that would be just east of the Home Depot at 31st and Iowa streets.

Commissioners halted the vote after a pair of planning commission members both expressed concern that a negative vote on the project would reinforce a notion that Lawrence is unfriendly to new business.

“I think if we vote this down, it will be viewed as the Planning Commission killing another opportunity in this town,” Commissioner Richard Hird said. “I want my frustrations noted because I think this project is a unique opportunity.”

The project did create an unusual scenario at City Hall: The commercial project enjoyed significant support from neighbors but received a negative recommendation from the city's planning staff.

The proposal calls for a 190,000-square-foot Menards home improvement store, plus lots for up to six smaller stores or restaurants, to be located on the approximately 40-acre site that formerly housed the Gaslight Mobile Home Village.

The property currently is zoned to house a multifamily apartment complex, and commissioners heard from some neighbors who said they would prefer retail development over more apartments. But the idea of allowing retail development on the property has been a contentious one since 2000, when developers tried to rezone the entire trailer park for retail zoning at the time the Home Depot and Best Buy proposals were brought forward. Neighbors at that time expressed strong opposition to any development that would extend retail development eastward along 31st Street. Members of the Indian Hills neighborhood at that time expressed concern about increased traffic in the area.

But on Monday night, a representative of the Indian Hills Neighborhood Association said she had only talked to 10 residents about the project, and they were evenly divided on whether to support the project.

On Monday night, planning commissioners were considering a request to change the city's comprehensive plan and to rezone the property to allow for retail development. A representative of Menards was asked several times by commissioners why the retailer was not willing to locate on property already zoned for big box retail at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway, which is adjacent to the city's site for a proposed $25 million regional recreation center.

Tyler Edwards, a real estate representative with Menards, said the lack of houses in the area and challenges related to the visibility of the site made the Sixth and SLT location unattractive to Menards. But he said he understands the city is working hard to convince retailers that their projects ought to be located in the far northwest corner of the city.

“I think I will call it more of a utopian style of planning,” Edwards said. “Somebody thinks it is a good idea and tries to funnel everything to one area.”

Edwards said the site may still prove to be a strong area for retail development in the future, but he said the current market conditions make being on South Iowa Street, where Menards can benefit from the synergy of being next to Home Depot, more attractive.

Several planning commissioners also expressed concerns about whether a new Menards would put Home Depot out of business, but Planning Director Scott McCullough told commissioners that he would not recommend taking that into consideration as part of the zoning review process.

Planning commissioners are just the first step in the approval process for the project. Ultimately city commissioners will make the final decision on the rezoning issue, but if the Planning Commission rejects the plan, City Commission approval becomes more complicated.


cowboy 4 years, 11 months ago

Looks like the first job for the " business facilitator" or whatever that position was called.

Gotta wonder why we even have this commission when the city will fall all over itself to give money away to Bio firms which create 3 jobs and reject a major revenue generator that wants to develop a distressed piece of ground.

HD , Lowes , and Menards all locate next to each other. It creates draw. Buyers can go and look over all companies in one easy swoop.

Its high time for the city commission to step in and dissolve the approval power of this commission. They are useless.

Charlie Dominguez 4 years, 11 months ago

I agree, this planning commission is useless. Too much of the local developers pushing businesses where they don't want to go, and where the local developer is able to cash in.

Lowe's never came back and now we are going to lose Menards. All in the name of "go where we tell you to go" the Schwada property.

Russell Fryberger 4 years, 11 months ago

We need a QuickTrip and a strip mall out that way too. Start working our way down towards Louisiana st. Continue east of Louisiana and pout a Red Lobster and a couple of random stores. And finally pave over the swamp with a nice parking lot.

scaramouchepart2 4 years, 11 months ago

There are places hoping for Menards in Lawrence. This is not a case of the city being unfriendly, but the business violating development plans. Why do companies insist on building in inappropriate places and some call the city to fault. Menards has many places to build in town already zoned and willing neighborhoods. Menards is so unique according commissioner Hird, then people will drive to where ever they build. I would. My neighborhood is more than liklely a willing neighborhood. We know we have approved commercially zoned areas. Menards would only need to pull a permit and build.

Andrew Dufour 4 years, 11 months ago

I love Lawrence uniqueness as much as the next guy, personally I really do not want us to turn into Olathe west. I don't really care one way or another if we get a Menards, I think HD is sufficient for a town of this size but recognize that Menards would create some competition, I don't think it would matter too much though as I doubt the local stores can create their own sales to compete. I think the thing that frustrates people on these comments though isn't the lack of retail approval or a desire to get a bunch of chains in here, rather I think the frustration is that the city will fall all over itself to approve unnecessary new apartment complexes (even in areas zoned for single family homes) but won't approve a retail development with a gun to its head.

Anthony Mall 4 years, 11 months ago

Lawrence unfriendly to new business, no.... Unless it has Compton or Fritzel involved its not getting built in Lawrence

50YearResident 4 years, 11 months ago

We need professionals to run this city, not a group of untrained and uninformed Commissioners that serve for 2 or 4 years and then select the Mayor from the good old boys group. Hire permanent, educated, professionals that can stay in the job and add stability to the future planning of Lawrence. Now is the time for a change. Don't we deserve a permanent professional leadership group to run this town?

50YearResident 4 years, 11 months ago

What is in Corliss's resume to qualify him as a professional City Manager?

50YearResident 4 years, 11 months ago

Excellent, that resume should make him well qualified.

LogicMan 4 years, 11 months ago

"“I think if we vote this down, it will be viewed as the Planning Commission killing another opportunity in this town,” Commissioner Richard Hird said."

OMG! A glimmer of clearness and hope. Props to Mr. Hird; may the others see the light as well. It ain't pre-2008 no more, and won't be again in our lifetimes. Wake up and smell the Great Everlasting Recession.

Shane Garrett 4 years, 11 months ago

Menards went in just across the street form Lowe's in Topeka and both are just south from Home Depot on the north end of Wannamaker. I love it. check the adds and can shop all three within a couple of hours time. I do spend time just wondering around and looking but I love hardware/garden/grocery/clothes stores all wrapped into one. Got a good deal on peanuts yesterday. Best thing is that Walmart and Sams and Aldi are all located in the same area. Makes my shopping most easy as I make one big loop around to the stores. I guess what I am saying is good planning is location, location, location.

lawrencereporter 4 years, 11 months ago

It's time to bring back the "Cornfield Mall" project from the late 80's.

joes_donuts 4 years, 11 months ago

I guess we need an updated sign on 1-70, "Welcome to Lawrence, the answer is still NO!".

HootyWho 4 years, 11 months ago

wish somebody would build something, anything that paid a living wage here in lawrence

riverdrifter 4 years, 11 months ago

That would NOT be Menard's. Junk, low-paying jobs, just like HD, Walmart, etc.

Sam Crow 4 years, 11 months ago

If Menards wants to build a store there, they can and will. A real estate attorney working for Menards can easily go to court saying the Lawrence recommendation is arbitrary, capricious, protectionist, anticompetitive, and monopolistic.

Since property is rezoned very frequently, there is no defense to refusing to change this property. This would not go from single family housing to commercial. The property owner cannot be denied his rights and ability to sell and use his property in a lawful way. There is no way the city can defend itself based on a very subjective and vague rule about other vacant buildings. This is not a building to be built by a development speculator. The comprehensive plan is not a legal document, it is that, just a plan.

It is estimated Menards is an 8 billion dollar business with almost 300 stores. They have armies of consultants in real estate and city planning to deal with places like Lawrence. Every large business like this encounters issues in every city they deal with, including NIMBYs complaining about traffic and property values.

Menards is a gorilla. If the request is reasonable, the gorilla will win. This request is reasonable.

hooligan01 4 years, 11 months ago

Menards is the company that is flying workers from WI to work in their store in Minot, ND. This company thinks outside the box, they'll figure out a way to make it work.

brutus 4 years, 11 months ago

The planning commission has been an embarrassment to this city for a long time. They should all be replaced with new faces and less arrogant attitudes

oldbaldguy 4 years, 11 months ago

me want Lowe's too. great place. put the Menard's in.

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