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Archive for Tuesday, December 10, 2013

City hears concerns about lighting plan at Rock Chalk Park complex

December 10, 2013

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City leaders and a neighbor to the Rock Chalk Park sports complex will meet in the coming days after city officials conceded Tuesday that a lighting plan for the complex hadn’t been properly approved.

“This clearly has been botched,” said Richard Hird, a Lawrence attorney who represents Jack Graham, who lives just east of the Rock Chalk Park site near Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting were told by the city’s planning director that the 100-foot tall light poles for the softball, track and field and soccer fields at Rock Chalk Park already have been installed, even though the City Commission hadn’t yet approved a lighting plan for the project. When the project was approved by commissioners earlier this year, it was done so with specific conditions, including that a lighting plan would be approved by commissioners before any building permits would be issued for the project.

“I apologize for this failure to follow the proper procedure,” Mayor Mike Dever told Graham during the meeting.

The project is being built by a firm led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel, who previously has been criticized for moving ahead on projects without proper city approval. In 2011, Fritzel was involved in a project that installed artificial turf at an apartment complex, despite not having city code approval for the turf. Last year, Fritzel agreed to make a $50,000 donation to a historic preservation fund to resolve a dispute regarding whether he dismantled a historic home in a manner inconsistent with city codes.

“Given the history, I hope you can understand why there is an absolute mistrust in the developer, and really at this point, the city’s desire to do this project right,” Hird told commissioners.

Dever, though, said that while the oversight on the lighting project was regrettable, he’s confident city inspectors are closely monitoring the project, especially the portions of the park that are receiving city funding. The lights are not being installed with city funds.

Graham asked commissioners to hire a third-party, independent consultant to assess whether the lights will have an adverse impact on his property.

A majority of city commissioners balked, for the moment, at hiring a consultant. Scott McCullough, the city’s planning director, said a lighting plan was submitted to the city shortly after the lights were installed. He said a review of the plan found the lighting plan fell within the city’s code to protect adjacent property from adverse impacts.

But City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer said he’s open to the idea of the city paying for an independent study.

“We goofed up here,” Farmer said of the city’s approval process. “We said we were going to do one thing and we didn’t do it. Regardless of who is at fault, we should make it right.”

Before deciding the consultant issue, commissioners asked Graham to first meet with city planning officials to go over the lighting plan in more detail. Commissioners expect to have the item back on their agenda in early January.

In other news, commissioners:

• Approved 5-0 a resolution to exempt city buildings from the state’s concealed carry law. The exemption will allow the city to continue to prohibit concealed carry permit holders from bringing their weapons into City Hall and other city buildings for the next four years. City commissioners did hear comments from representatives of both the Douglas County Republican Party and the Douglas County Libertarians to allow concealed carry in public buildings.

Comments

Clark Coan 1 year ago

I have no sympathy for land speculator Jack Graham. He's the one who plowed the Elkins Prairie, a community natural landmark.

Gary Pomeroy 1 year ago

"City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting were told by the city’s planning director that the 100-foot tall light poles for the softball, track and field and soccer fields at Rock Chalk Park already have been installed, even though the City Commission hadn’t yet approved a lighting plan for the project. When the project was approved by commissioners earlier this year, it was done so with specific conditions, including that a lighting plan would be approved by commissioners before any building permits would be issued for the project." Did nobody notice the lights going up? Is there not a city building or other inspector keepoing tabs on the project? Pictures of the lights were in the paper on November 12, 2013 - they were already there for installation with no lighting plan. Same old game - to quote Orwell, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

Gary Pomeroy 1 year ago

“I apologize for this failure to follow the proper procedure,” Mayor Mike Dever told Graham during the meeting." Procedure ? Thought it had the force of law. Oh well . . . .

Chris Golledge 1 year ago

I'm remembering another KU Athletes construction project where they built a multi-million dollar practice facility only to discover that, yes, it was in public view from the adjacent hill. And someone had the idea to mitigate that by spending 10s of thousands of dollars on trees to block the view. Nevermind that the trees would have to be a couple hundred feet high to have any effect, and they never will be. I hear KU football does not practice there now.

Phil Minkin 1 year ago

Once again proving the adage "It's easier to ask forgiveness that permission." How many times can this developer disregard rule and get away with it?

Mark Rainey 1 year ago

It will be interesting to see if 1750 road has more issues this spring.

John Graham 1 year ago

Why is anyone surprised? The commissioners rushed to approve this when the rec center was budgeted at $20 million and infrastructure at $4 million. When there was an independent bid for the rec center it came in approx $10 but the infrastructure costs jumped to approx $12 million. There was such a race to do this quickly that the city has no idea what they bought. The first rule of business is to know the details. The commissioners, some of which are business owners, apparently don't care about the details.

If I build something on my land without proper permits I am pretty sure I will be in a lot of trouble. Why does this contractor continue to get away with this kind of thing with at most a slap on the wrist? Why does the city continue to work with this contractor?

John Graham 1 year ago

Now it is told the city has additional costs above what was already committed, such as bleachers, weight room equipment, office equipment, supplies like balls, nets etc. While not much compared to $25M, it will add up well into the six figures.

Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Are taxpayers getting lip service instead of respect for ordinances and guidelines?

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