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City commissioners want to study whether Lawrence needs new plan to guide growth and development

April 23, 2013


Whether Lawrence wants to be led by a gray-haired guide became a topic of discussion Tuesday night at City Hall.

At their Tuesday evening meeting, city commissioners began questioning whether the city's guiding plan for growth and development— Horizon 2020 — is nearing the end of its useful life. Commissioners unanimously agreed to form a new task force that will seek input on whether now is the time to start working to create a new comprehensive plan.

“It has some age on it,” City Commissioner Bob Schumm said of the Horizon 2020 plan. “It has gray hair.”

The issue started out with a question about how closely the City Commission must follow Horizon 2020. Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously rejected a proposal that would have opened the door for rezoning requests to be approved by the City Commission even if a request ran counter to provisions in the city's comprehensive plan.

Instead, commissioners focused on creating a task force that would study creating a new comprehensive plan to guide the city's growth for the next 15 to 20 years.

“I want to make sure Horizon 2020 is relevant tomorrow and five years from now,” Mayor Mike Dever said. “I want to hear what problems people are having with Horizon 2020.”

The commission on Tuesday did not name any members for the new task force, other than agreeing to appoint Commissioner Mike Amyx to lead the group. Dever said he envisions the task force being made up of residents and stakeholders. The task force likely will have to expand beyond Lawrence. Horizon 2020 is a joint comprehensive plan that also guides the rural areas of Douglas County.

Amyx said he believed the task force likely could answer many of the basic questions surrounding the future of Horizon 2020 in about three months. But if the task force ultimately recommends creating a new comprehensive plan — perhaps Horizon 2040 — it would be a major undertaking. When Horizon 2020 was drafted in the early 1990s, it involved a multiyear process that included a steering committee and dozens of subcommittees that gathered comment on everything from agricultural land uses to urban growth patterns.

The city's two newest commissioners — recently elected Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan — both said they were open to the idea of creating a new comprehensive plan, in part, because the number of amendments proposed for Horizon 2020 seems to be growing.

“I feel like we are kind of treating Horizon 2020 like used to treat our streets. We would patch and patch and patch, and then finally we decided we needed to do something different,” Farmer said.

Commissioners, though, weren't ready to approve the proposed text amendment that would have allowed rezonings to be approved even if they ran counter to Horizon 2020. City ordinance currently says rezonings must be in compliance with the city's comprehensive plan. Rezoning requests that aren't in compliance must first seek to change the city's comprehensive plan, a process that has been criticized by developers as unwieldy.

In other city business, commissioners:

• agreed to submit a grant application for $900,000 in state funding to improve the intersection of 23rd Street and Haskell Avenue in 2015. The city should know whether it was awarded the grant later this year.

• approved a street vendor license for Simply Franks, a hot dog stand that will be located at the southwest corner of 10th and Massachusetts streets. Jordan Kivett, an Overland Park resident and prospective Kansas University student, will run the stand. He said he hopes to be open from about noon to 9 p.m. on most days, but likely would stay open later on Friday and Saturday nights.


BringBackMark 5 years, 1 month ago

This new study could be called Gloomy 2040. They can prepare it, revise it, revise it, revise it, and finally put it in place in 2028 and then say it has "Gray Hair" in about 2033 and start over. I'm not too sure the gray hair problem is with the study.....

Keith 5 years, 1 month ago

"Dever said he envisions the task force being made up of residents and stakeholders."

What does this mean? Will we be having non-residents on the task force, or is this the new code word for 'developers'?

deec 5 years, 1 month ago

So a plan is outdated after 20 years but sales tax vote is not?

skinny 5 years, 1 month ago

A plan to keep more businesses out of Lawrence you mean!!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

How about respecting the plan plus adopt a mentality supporting careful economic growth and drop the plan that promotes helter skelter growth at any cost to the taxpayers?

It appears to me that Mayor Dever is the only one having a problem with Horizon 2020. No one showed up at the Planning Commission or City Commission to support trashing Horizon 2020.

It would be difficult to expect a new development plan because these matters require years of effort. According to his words it sounds as if wants to redesign this document within his tenure as Mayor. Who is the Mayor representing?

Lack of procedural transparency seemed apparent. This text amendment was initially proposed by a select group of people, largely representing development interests. The initial meetings held on this matter occurred without public notice, and did not include the participation or consent of neighborhood and community groups.

The process by which this text amendment was brought forth is inherently flawed, thus the amendment should have been rejected. Should there be any future consideration of this amendment, the process must include public review and engagement from the outset.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Menard's next door to Home Depot? Can we say dumb economics? Have people lost their mind's? Talk about an economic train wreck.....

What will this initially cost the taxpayers cuz we know Menard's doe not pay their way into a new market. They expect taxpayers to be forced to shell out tax dollars in a reckless manner.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 1 month ago

"Menard's next door to Home Depot? Can we say dumb economics?"

Did you really just say that? So I guess you know more than the exec's at Walmart, Home Depot, Menards, Target, etc...

There is a reason like minded stores open next to each other.

Oh, and weren't you the one who also shot down the Lowe's on the other side of town...

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

I've never seen home improvement stores next door to each other anywhere. The rule of thumb is at least 3 miles apart and a market to support more stores. Lawrence,Kansas is a small town compared to KCMO/JOCO metro. Two home improvement stores next door to each other in small town Lawrence is insane.

The market is not here. 30% of the Lawrence population is college students.

One of the stores will close = back to square one = one store. McCrays Lumber and Supply is on sixth with a very helpful staff and of course Cottins Hardware again staff is quite helpful.

infidel 5 years, 1 month ago

Some people do not get out of town much. In Topeka, Menards, HD, And Lowes are bunched up together. It's the same in many other areas. It's called competition in a free market, capitalist society. Last time I looked we still live in one, which is why I usually spend large sums of my earned money in Topeka.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 1 month ago

Menards and Home Depot are next to each other in Topeka and HD and Lowe's are similarly located in Wichita. It's actually pretty much industry standard.

LogicMan 5 years, 1 month ago

You need to go out to Wanamaker tomorrow and see for yourself. Menards and Lowes very near each other, and Home Depot just up the street. All doing fine and make for great destination shopping.

The stores here are not just for Lawrence, but also the surroundings. Plenty of customers to spare.

LogicMan 5 years, 1 month ago

A plan with general goals and guidelines is a good thing, but inflexibility is not. Lawrence has obviously been keeping businesses out, where the opposite approach is needed.

smileydog 5 years, 1 month ago

Horizon 2020 was outdated the day it rolled off the presses because it didn't allow for the population explosion in the 1990's. Keep the people who construct apartment buildings and probably banks off any new committee. Why else can an apartment building or bank be constructed on any corner? Also, use real experts, and don't use this as a popularity contest. Just because someone might be pretty doesn't make them an expert.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Laissez Faire development wastes tax dollars. It pulls tax dollars away from the central core then spreads them out into new development that may or may not be necessary anytime soon.

Taxpayers would likely prefer to have a clear cut guideline in place rather than leave the future of our fine city in the hands of who? This is not streamlining this is shirking responsibility. Failure to follow a clear and concise planning document will promote further over saturation of the markets,economic displacement thus leading to higher taxes.

New development does not necessarily generate adequate funding of revenues to cover the cost of services they require from a municipality thus higher taxes/user fees to local property owners.

This is but one request to eliminate guidelines. Where or when will it stop? Is eliminating guidelines a precedent taxpayers want on the books that can come back to haunt us at the next request?

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 1 month ago

"Laissez Faire development wastes tax dollars. It pulls tax dollars away from the central core then spreads them out into new development that may or may not be necessary anytime soon."

Ok so you don't want Menards next to the HD, but if you build it on 6th it will be away for the central core, increasing infrastructure costs....

In Merrill's world we would have one of everything all lined up neatly in a row on one street with no competition, and everyone would go buy products in another town because it would be much cheaper due to the competition.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 1 month ago

Did it seem Mike Amyx was not thrilled with the new job the Mayor gave him. The problem is H2020 is a living document not a patchwork job. We have made changes. Constantly - monthly. If you were to ask other communities, even in Canada ant the US the comprehensive plan is not to be constantly changed. Each year the community is supposed to make sure they have followed the plan and an average of every five years changes are considered to bring the comp plan up to date. This monthly change is not acceptable. When I explain to city leaders what we do they are surprised, shocked.

Sam Crow 5 years, 1 month ago

Not true. Johnson County cities frequently update their comprehensive plans to adjust to market conditions. They use it as a guide, knowing they cannot force development the way they want. Dont know about Canada.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 1 month ago

Johnson county updates their comp palm every month? Chicago is writing a new 2040 plan that state it will last for the "rest of the century".

Sam Crow 5 years, 1 month ago

Didnt write monthly. Wrote "frequently" to adjust to market conditions. You shouldnt try to compare Chicago to Lawrence.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 1 month ago

Wichita is also writing a new comp plan with the same idea. Comp plans have the same basis based on what was said at the city commission meeting. You suggested I was wrong because of Johnson County. So now Johnson County is also not the same as Lawrence either.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 1 month ago

  • Comprehensive plans typically last for twenty years. Writing a comprehensive plan starts with a review of what we have (studies and plans that exist) and an inventory of issues.
  • A steering committee and subcommittees are formed to establish goals and objectives.
  • Subcommittees study and provide detail on a specific topics like land use, transportation, or economic development.
  • The steering committee integrates the work of the subcommittees.
  • Staff act as a resource and do the writing.
  • The plan covers the entire county.
  • The steering committee and subcommittees are composed of citizens. All are volunteers.
  • After the plan is written by staff and reviewed by the steering committee, city codes and ordinances are adjusted to the plan.
  • Comprehensive plans take years to develop. Chapters are typically updated every five years, although some chapters have been neglected.

If you would like to volunteer, send an email to the mayor, Mike Dever, stating why you want to be involved, your background, and what you have to offer. Plan to spend a lot of time on the plan.

Sam Crow 5 years, 1 month ago

“The plan covers the entire county.” The comprehensive plan for Lawrence ends at the city limits. Do really think it covers Eudora and Baldwin City also? Or land in the county that is not a part of a city?

“Comprehensive plans typically last for twenty years.” The comprehensive plan is simply a strategic wish list and goal for future development. Who knows what market conditions will be here in 20 years?

I used to live in Johnson County. And participated in updating a plan where I lived. There, NIMBYs often oppose specific developments on the grounds that it would “violate the comprehensive plan”. They always lose.

Property rights cannot be denied because of administrative decisions that are arbitrary. In the Menards case, it is not a business to enter a single family home zoning. It is surrounded by commercial development.

A new plan must not be written every twenty years. Cities change comprehensive plans frequently by merely amending them. For example, Lawrence might be compared to Lenexa. They are similar sized cities separated by mere minutes of driving. Both have the K 10 corridor running within them and are experiencing high growth. And both start with the letter “L”. Lenexa is dealing with development for both the K10 and K7 corridors. Twenty years ago that was not anticipated. A mere five years ago Gardner could not foresee the changes caused by the intermodal hub nearby its city.

I do urge any resident to become involved in the city at any level in any way. Cities have gone bankrupt across the nation because residents ignored what was going on until it was too late.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 1 month ago

H2020 is for Douglas County. Lawrence jurisdiction actually have an urban growth area both H2020 cover and state statutes support. Yes the county has equal jurisdiction. Comp plan changes have to go before the county if the property is in the urban growth area.

Sam Crow 5 years, 1 month ago

For Merrill "The rule of thumb is at least 3 miles apart and a market to support more stores. Lawrence,Kansas is a small town compared to KCMO/JOCO metro. Two home improvement stores next door to each other in small town Lawrence is insane.

The market is not here. 30% of the Lawrence population is college students"

I can assure you that Menards has done extensive market and demographic studies before beginning an investment of tens of millions dollars here. This is not their first venture at this.

I wonder where you come up with the 3 mile rule of thumb.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 1 month ago

Come on now, you know that magicians never reveal their secrets.

joes_donuts 5 years, 1 month ago

If you say it enough, it must be true...

Remember, mamma always said "Never get in an argument with stupid, because you cannot win."

Carol Bowen 5 years, 1 month ago

SamCrow, There is a difference between updates and new plans. Updates are done every five years. New comprehensive plans are written from scratch. Horizon 2020 was to last until 20220. Writing a new plan should start soon. Given the frequent requests for changes, sooner rather than later. The plan is already out of date. The city has grown beyond the Urban Growth Area anticipated.

H2020 does cover all of Douglas county and all of its communities. The Planning Commission has seats for county representatives outside of Lawrence.

" In the Menards case, it is not a business to enter a single family home zoning. It is surrounded by commercial development." The purpose of a comprehensive plan is to look at a bigger picture beyond the actual site to integrate capacity, land use, etc. Don't get me wrong. I think the site Manard's has chosen is the best location in town. I definitely think that considering competition with Home Depot inappropriate. It's up to the city tore solve issues.

While a new plan is in the works, it might be an idea to update the urban growth portion of H2020. Spot planning is not planning.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 1 month ago

Mikekt, Sound good and probably convenient for you. Did you notice that the main roads in each direction are one mile apart? That means drivers will use Iowa and 31st or Louisiana and 23rd. The impact is far beyond what you perceive,

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

The bottom line:

Adding miles and miles and miles of new infrastructure is like adding miles and miles and miles of new taxes. In a bedroom community this is not expanding the tax base it is expanding our tax bills.

Until Lawrence can afford to fund social services adequately,maintain neighborhood streets and side walks etc etc how in the world can Lawrence afford to spend on additional new projects that truly add NEW expense for the community to maintain.

This is not sensible spending or sensible growth. This is the thinking that makes sense and is realistic:

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Following the construction of the $88 million sewage treatment plant in and of itself increases the cost of community services plus ADDITIONAL everything else.

--- city staffing and equipment /.

--- water and sewer lines /.

--- streets and repairs /.

--- houses /

--- public schools /

--- fire stations /

--- law enforcement manpower /

--- sidewalks /

--- snow removal /

--- bike trails and cross walks /

--- Traffic signals /

--- Traffic calming /

--- Strip Malls /

--- Expensive Flood Control /

--- Etc etc etc

*In general increases the cost of community services acoss the board to all taxpaying property owners. Are all property owners paying taxes? Hmmmmmmm

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

While Horizon 2020 may need updating it should have been presented in that venue instead of attempting to gut Horizon 2020 in the interest of speeding up a process that already moves along at a much faster pace than say KCMO/JOCO metro.

Lawrence has a small group of people who are destined to bring Lawrence population to a count of 250,000 ASAP not in the interest of improving the quality of life. It is about $$$$$$$$$ in their bank accounts. And never wanting to recognize the the larger majority of people as the largest group of stakeholders.

I've yet to meet anyone who is interested in Lawrence becoming 250,000 people strong. That is NOT why people move to Lawrence,Kansas. People move to Lawrence to get away from that big city crime rate not to mention getting away from the hustle and bustle.

scaramouchepart2 5 years, 1 month ago

Growth is not always a bad word, but that growth has to still protect and maintain existing community and not grow beyond the communities ability to financially support proper expansion. Lawrence has to be able to afford all infrastructure including police, fire, parks and rec to name 3. Building just to build is not healthy growth. Note the number 1 requirement of the comp plan is to protect the Heath of the community. Lawrence, unfortunately, basically survives on building. It is a fact a community that is not growing is either holding the status quo or declining physically. Business taxes should provide major income to a communities coffers and not just residential property tax. The percentage of business taxes to residential taxes should be higher from the businesses then it is at present. Vacant building is not a sign of a healthy community. Lawrence's vacancy rate in almost every category implies an unhealthy community. A new century with an economic crisis is forcing communities to find new ways to bring dollars to the communities coffers. Lawrence is stuck in the 80's. We grew then so we must continue status quo. Times have changed and finances are to tight to through money at every idea and hope something works.

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