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Archive for Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lawrence city commissioners narrowly approve ban on porch couches

August 27, 2013

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The tradition of front porch couches at student apartments is on the way out in Lawrence.

But more than students may end up caring. City commissioners Tuesday narrowly passed a citywide ban of upholstered furniture on porches, decks and patios, after fire officials said the frequent practice in student neighborhoods created a fire risk.

Now, disobeying the new ban may create a risk for landlords. City officials clarified that in the case of rental properties, it will be the landlords — not tenants — who ultimately face any fine for violating the new law.

“The property owner will have the responsibility of having a good lease to ensure that the property remains in compliance with the code,” City Manager David Corliss told commissioners.

Technically fines can start at $100 per day, but city officials said they first simply would ask tenants and then property owners to remove the outlawed furniture. The issue of fines and enforcement were two of many issues that city commissioners struggled with at their weekly meeting. Commissioners approved the ban on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Mike Amyx and Jeremy Farmer opposing the ban.

Both commissioners said they thought the city already had appropriate language in their codes to prohibit indoor furniture from being placed on porches, decks and patios, if the city really thought it was a problem.

“I see this more as telling people what to do, and where does that stop?” Farmer said. “A lot of people I have talked to have said the same thing. I have gotten dozens of comments.

But the public was largely quiet Tuesday night. No one from the public spoke against the ban. Only one neighborhood member spoke in favor of it.

A majority of commissioners said they thought there was solid precedent for the ban.

“I think this just makes our intention a lot clearer and lot more enforceable,” City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. “I’m not trying to tell people how to live or how to socialize. It is kind of like the old pop bottle rockets. I loved shooting them off as a kid, but they just cause too many fires.”

Fire department statistics showed that since 2007 there had been 10 fires — out of 463 total structure fires — that involved upholstered furniture on porches, decks or patios. But Fire Chief Mark Bradford said the quick burning nature of the furniture, and the lack of smoke alarms on porches made them particularly dangerous. Several other university cities, including Lincoln, Neb., Ames, Iowa, and Columbia, Mo., already have bans in place.

City officials haven’t set a date to begin enforcing the ban. Instead, they said they’ll spend several months doing an educational effort, especially in student neighborhoods, to try to gain voluntary compliance.

The ban won’t affect lawn chairs or other types of furniture that are specifically made for outdoor use.

In other news, commissioners:

• Unanimously approved a 10-year, 50 percent tax abatement to help Sunlite Science & Technologies move into a space at 4811 Quail Crest Place. Commissioners approved the request for the LED lighting manufacturer despite it being a smaller than normal project for tax abatements. The company plans to invest $2.3 million over 10 years. The city’s tax abatement policy recommends companies be required to invest at least $5 million over 10 years before they are eligible for an abatement. Commissioners said they may want to revise that policy to better fit today’s economy.

• Unanimously approved permits for two downtown runs: The Color Run on Sept. 14 and the Glow Run on Oct. 12. Commissioners agreed to require organizers of The Color Run to submit $20,000 deposit to ensure the downtown area is properly cleaned up following the event, which is expected to attract about 7,000 runners.

Comments

Chris Ogle 7 months, 2 weeks ago

So can I still sit on my front porch toilet???

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Carol Bowen 7 months, 3 weeks ago

An ordinance against upholstered furniture outdoors has existed for a long time. All the commission did was clarify and emphasize with a separate ordinance. If the commission had not passed the new ordinance, couches would still not be allowed outdoors because of existing ordinances. It's just a matter of enforcement. Why the debate?

1

sunny 7 months, 3 weeks ago

This is totally ridiculous! Is there a limit on how many ordinances there can be?

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Bursting 7 months, 3 weeks ago

This is a perfect time to use our new armored vehicle!!! Couch enforcement!

1

JustNoticed 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I am shocked, appalled and disgusted that it even occurs to the Commission that it might have authority over my porch furniture. And spare me the safety arguments. Is my freedom to have a porch couch worth the fires that might occur if they are not banned? Yes, absolutely, just as the consequences, deaths even, would be worth it if we shut down the police state we've become and began defending our freedom instead of thanking our oppressors for "protecting" us by assuming an absolute right over our persons and property when it suits their purposes. Does that sound extreme? Do you miss habeas corpus? Do you even know that it's gone? Do you think the President of the United States should have the power to assassinate a citizen of the United States? You know that's already happened, don't you?

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Meatwad 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't have a strong opinion on this either way. On one hand, people should be able to have a porch couch--they are very popular for students. On the other hand, I saw the outcome when one caught fire due to the tenant absent-mindedly dropping a cigarette (after all, he was outdoors). Sadly the whole front of the house went up in flames and had to be replaced by the owner. Too bad that several stupid people who smoke and weren't careful, have caused porch couches to be banned by everyone, but that's the way it goes. Porch couch fires are more common that I realized. Time for them to just get some proper outdoor furniture or use plastic chairs.

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maxofperry 7 months, 3 weeks ago

<#*&("":! Government at work. I hope everyone votes against the commissioners who voted for this. I hope everyone moves their couches to the front lawn, near the porch and continues to enjoy the atmosphere.

What could be next? No front porch...... let your mind consider the possibilities.

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Ron Holzwarth 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I had quite a double take when I saw the couch used to illustrate this article a couple days ago. And now, it's there again. That was my old hide-a-bed couch! I recognized the couch, the dumpster, and the car in the background. I paid $40 to have it hauled out to the trash, and in its 50 or so years of use, it was never on a porch.

Talk about off topic,,,

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weiser 7 months, 3 weeks ago

And to think, whole families used to sleep on the porch in the summer, that is why they are so big. I called the city about the sign holders. You can't put a sign in you own yard if it is on city property (from the sidewalk to the curb.). So this commercial operation can stand on city property. So they distract drivers and probably send profits to some other State. But the humble Lawrece tax payer has no voice as the city told me "that's just the way it is" .....thanks a lot.

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KU_Dude 7 months, 3 weeks ago

When couches are outlawed only outlaws will have couches.

3

jgkojak 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I find it funny that the couch issue (which is ridiculous) is getting all the attention and yet another tax abatement isn't.

1

Mollie New Leaf 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Why should I be punished for having comfortable seating on my porch? It's not trashy-looking, we're not smokers, and we don't use fireworks. My couch doesn't become animated into an arsonist at night. And frankly, I resent being included with smokers. No one smokes on my porch, so tell me, how is my couch going to catch on fire?

The house behind my house burned to the ground two years ago. The fire was started by an "improperly disposed of smoking device", not by a couch.

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oneeye_wilbur 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Martha Stoolwart will be conducting classes with oneeye on toilet stool decorating as porch furniture.if interested. Post on here if enough interest place and time to be announced

Wilbur and juanita

1

Armored_One 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Anyone remember the fires on Tennessee Street last year that all but gutted a couple of houses? I seem to remember reading that those fires started on a porch with indoor furniture setting outside. Had those fires not been facing Tennessee Street, but instead the alley, what do you think the likelihood of it being confined to one house would be?

You are willing to ban the police department from ever using drones, but a couch is somehow sacrosanct?

cocking my head to the side like a dog listening but not understanding

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kernal 7 months, 3 weeks ago

If you have an indoor sofa on your front porch, put it out in the street so the city will pick it up for you.

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davisnin 7 months, 3 weeks ago

So then porch fires because of couches occur at a significantly lower rate than suspicious Compton property fires? I guess students just don't give enough bribes.

2

cowboy 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Next they will want to ban fireworks....

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LawrenceTownie 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The City hasn't decided when to begin enforcing the ban. Instead, they will do educational effort, especially in student neighborhoods, to gain "voluntary compliance". Now where have I heard that one before? Perhaps in WWII?

Hey here is what I suggest to impress the Commissioners: Everyone in Lawrence who has a front porch, carry that living room sofa out and spend the evening sitting on it. Talk to the people who walk in front of your house with friends or pets. You would get to know all your neighbors that way. You might enjoy the experience. Wouldn't it be fun if all the front porch home owners planned a "sit out" day?

Anyone game?

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pizzapete 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The Lawrence visitor center needs to start handing out brochures explaining all the random rules and regulations our commissioners have come up with to help save us from ourselves. Or maybe we should have them posted alongside the downtown charity meters, no wait, that would be a fire hazard.

2

oneeye_wilbur 7 months, 3 weeks ago

So the commission wasn't confident they could prove diddly squat even after spendng time writing an ordinance that now is questionable.

Well, wlbur is confident that the commission is inadequate along with the legal department for dwawing up wortthless ordinances that are not enforced because the become questionable.

Again, a toilet stool with a slipcover for the tank is okay. Try it and see what happens next.

1

Matthew Herbert 7 months, 3 weeks ago

49 LJworld comments, 48 of which are critical of their vote. Awesome. Good job representing your constituents, city commission.

2

akt2 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Move your couch to the yard and your beer pong table to the porch.

1

oneeye_wilbur 7 months, 3 weeks ago

wineguy, cl has a free sofa behind 1210 Ohio...go get it.

Now then, this sofa thing is real interesting. Anyone who has a garage facing the street needs to put the sofa in the garage with the door open and sit on it, so that the sofa sitters and sofa face the street as folks drive by.

Will Schumm and Dever and Riordan (who by the way has trash clear up to Edgehill in his backyard) then demand and write and ordinance that requires all garage doors to be closed? I

jafs is correct about the existing ordiance. Remember though this is a commission that cannot execute basic city services throughout the entire community. They worry about a sofa but not about lack of street lighting, crapped out streets. trees growing around trees. The inner city is shabby and the biggest problem is the city infrastructure.

The city management is broken, led by a city commission that is just going along with the status quo.

wineguy, move the sofa to the yard and put it inside of one of those cuty dining canopies. All is well. After all, the Castle Tea room uses them all of the time.

personally wilbur and his sister oneeyed juanita don't like the sofas and prefer to sit on the toilet stool on the porch. we are in fact looking for a few more, we have company a comin' our table is one of those heavy duty wooden spools that utility companies throw out. they make a nice dining table, the stool lid conceals the silverware and when the par;ty starts, the fun begins with a Martha Stewart pot roast.

We even went to hobbled lobbied and got some nice acrylic paint and painted a picture of each commissioner on the stool lid. you should try it.

1

wineguy 7 months, 3 weeks ago

So if I move the couch into my yard to sit on it, we're cool then, right?

1

jafs 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Nobody has yet explained why we need this new ordinance, when the existing one already prohibits indoor furniture outside.

Why not just enforce the existing ordinance? And, if we're not, then why is there any reason to believe we'll enforce the new one any better?

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Richard Heckler 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Over and above the couch on the porch taxpayers one day will need to make a rather smart decision.

How many more tax dollar abatements do the taxpayers want to see given away as a matter of everyday routine business. It is my position that every city commission meeting with damn few exceptions increase the cost of living to residents in Lawrence,Kansas.

Increase the cost of living by way of increasing property values, user fees, property taxes,sales taxes or whatever to cover the cost of those not paying their fair share. Yes annually we get nickel dimed so often it is hard to recall how many over the past decade have taken place. Which adds to to enough money that could be better spent at a local retail operation.

1

Richard Heckler 7 months, 3 weeks ago

This couch on the porch made the Kansas City Star. Questioning our city commissioners sanity may well be on trial.

0

Topple 7 months, 3 weeks ago

City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. “I’m not trying to tell people how to live or how to socialize. It is kind of like the old pop bottle rockets. I loved shooting them off as a kid, but they just cause too many fires.”

Yea, upholstered furniture is widely known for causing fires...

How is it, exactly, that outdoor upholstered furniture is a fire hazard but indoor upholstered furniture is not?

1

consumer1 7 months, 3 weeks ago

These couches are a great habitat for the endanger Blueberrian Hemp Mouse. You can usually find three or four completely stoned mice crashed in the crevices of these old couches.

0

consumer1 7 months, 3 weeks ago

You cannot go anyplace in east Lawrence without seeing three or four couches on porches per block. What number do I call to report these infractions?

0

Richard Heckler 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I say this concern got feet because some folks think the couch on the porch is tacky.

If anyone believes land lords will be held accountable for the fines then guess what I've got lake front property for sale in a very unusual location.

I've always been under the impression that a patio is outside in the open and on a hard surface such as river gravel, concrete,pavers etc etc etc ...... nothing like a front porch. A matter of semantics perhaps.

A decision based on less than 2 fires a year?

Bring on the rockin chairs and Jayhawk basketball outside.

1

elliottaw 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Good move by the city, sometimes you just have to force the hillbilly out of people.

3

Boston_Corbett 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Trash is trash. And upholstered furniture outside is trash. If it takes "big government" to get someone to empty their trash, I am all for "big government."

Thanks Dever, Schumm, and Riordan.

3

rumor_man 7 months, 3 weeks ago

It's the Payless Furniture and Bed Mart sign wavers at 23rd & Iowa's fault. Ban them.

5

John Spencer 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Mike Amyx and Jeremy Farmer will be getting my vote next election. Not the others, I'll vote for anyone else. Ridiculous waste of our money, when so many other things are more important.

4

Haiku_Cuckoo 7 months, 3 weeks ago

When I was in school our rental house had a couch on the porch. In a matter of months it turned into a mildew-covered mouse nest. I think the rodent issue is just as much of a concern as the fire issue. I found out the hard way that couches on porches are not a good idea.

5

LifeInLawrence 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I was under the impression that having couches on the porch was already against the law. I thought it was against fire codes to have a couch on the porch.

0

oldexbeat 7 months, 3 weeks ago

gonna take these away ?  Huh ?

gonna take these away ? Huh ? by oldexbeat

Does expensive and new count ? Or just used and poor ? Huh ?

5

Alceste 7 months, 3 weeks ago

no mention in the article about the vote as in who voted yes and who voted no. why not?

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Steven Gaudreau 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Next on the agenda..............Gnome ban. I would like the city to pay for a study on the dangers of garden gnomes in yards. I would like for the fire dept to inspect all yard gnomes and make sure they are not a trip hazard. An ill advised placed gnome can and will kill. Exisitng gnomes can be grand fathered in as long as strict guidelines are met. No new garden gnomes should be allowed in the city limits.

0

Matthew Herbert 7 months, 3 weeks ago

since this is CLEARLY a fire safety issue and CERTAINLY not a disguised pretentious aesthetics issue, I'm sure the commission will be fine with me replacing my porch couch with several old toilets I can use as lounging chairs. After all, porcelain is not easily flammable! It's really safe!

21

Number_1_Grandma 7 months, 3 weeks ago

“I see this more as telling people what to do, and where does that stop?” Farmer said.

Did you not take government class in high school Mr. Farmer?

This is what governments do for the 'good' of people....

Now, we just have to elect people who know what their job is and do it with common sense. So please don't run again for city commissioner. Go back to food pantry where you don't have to tell people what to do....

1

workinghard 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Did they give the landlord the power to remove the couch without being sued for taking their property? Does the landlord have to publish something in the paper saying they are going to remove it like they do before they can dispose of a tenants abandoned property?

2

Lynn731 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Once again I am so glad I do not live in the dictatorship of Lawrence. I have always been fond of Bob Schumm, still am, but I cannot understand his vote on this. As for Amyx, he really surprised me by his vote. I never thought he had that much common sense. Just shows one is never too old to learn. There are many other serious causes of fire, shown by the Fire Department's own statistics, than an old couch on a front porch. I remain seriously concerned about the government telling us how to live our lives. This includes federal, state, county, and city governments. I suppose they think this justifies their existence, by making such silly rules and regulations. Absolutely incredible.

2

oneeye_wilbur 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Narrowly approve? I wonder if the commish just decided who would take turns to vote yes and no?

0

jafs 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Tenants are clearly the ones breaking the law here if they put couches on the porch, and so they should pay the fine.

It's not reasonable to hold landlords responsible for that misbehavior.

2

richfree 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Ten fires out of 463... or 2.16 % of fires are caused by upholstered furniture on porches. What about upholstered furniture indoors? What about the almost 98% of other type of fires? What will the City do next to protect us from ourselves? Now, it's the landlords problem? Property owners beware !! Big Brother is watching.

4

rlsd 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Seriously, the landlord??? I doubt they had a thing to do with it and don't like it either. THE tenants did it, fine them!!!!

5

Richard Heckler 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder how many house fires are ignited by a smoker in bed?

Tons of lawn furniture has upholstered cushions. Wicker is acceptable both indoor and outdoor.

Seems to me upholstered couches could be as dangerous in the living room more than outdoors if a house was burning. The temperature of a house fire will burn and/or melt most items.

This is all about "appearances". A sofa on a porch cannot impact property values such that neglected rental properties accomplish. Then again owners of these properties are city commissioners,former city commissioners,planning g commissioners,members of the chamber and employees within local government not to mention big time local movers and shakers.

3

mongoose 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I see a demand for lawn couches in the future!

2

Centurion 7 months, 3 weeks ago

My next porch couch will be eco friendly. It'll be made out of sticks and have dried leaves for cushioning.

7

smileydog 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Where will my chickens sleep? On the bright side, when the homeland security drones start hovering above our streets, they won't be seeing me or my chickens hanging outside on our couch.

Now if only there was an ordinance for....hmmmm. How about bicyclists must use the bike path instead of the street if there's one along a major street...nah, that's a state legislature issue. I'll come up with something...severed foot kept in a jar still legal for the porch? Yes.

2

oneeye_wilbur 7 months, 3 weeks ago

What is Schumm doing to eliminate the fire hazards downtown in the dumpster areas?

What is it that the commissioners who voted cannot figure out with the current ordinance!

Just set up a dining canopy in the yard andputthe sofa under it or in the garage with the door up.

:):)

0

buffalo63 7 months, 3 weeks ago

There already is an ordinance about indoor furniture outside a residence. Is there not enough language in that one to enforce? Maybe that should have been modified instead of adding more. Make codes that can be enforced or don't make them in the first place.

4

Currahee 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm so glad our commissioners are doing important things, such as banning couches on porches. Now the real war against the existence of porches can begin. Those wooden things can catch on fire too!

4

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