Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Change in state law expected to produce fewer historic preservation reviews in Lawrence

June 11, 2013


The question of what type of developments can be located next to historic structures — a question known to incite a few debates in Lawrence — soon will be asked less frequently.

Beginning July 1, a new state law is expected to more than cut in half the number of Lawrence properties that will require a historic preservation review as part of the development process.

“It is the loss of a planning tool,” said Lynne Braddock Zollner, the city’s historic resources administrator.

The new law eliminates the sometimes contentious state-mandated “environs review” for any project that is within 500 feet of a property listed on the Kansas or National Register of Historic Places.

Under the new law, the state’s historic preservation officer only will be required to review projects that directly impact listed properties. In other words, if you want to construct an addition onto a building listed on the National Register of Historic places, you’ll need the state review. If you want to build a fast-food restaurant on the property next to a historic structure, you won’t need the review.

Zollner said the change in the law "has created quite a bit of conversation in the historic preservation community."

But she said the new law won’t eliminate all environs reviews in Lawrence. That’s because the city also maintains a Lawrence Register of Historic Places. The Lawrence register calls for any development within 250 feet of a property on the local register to go through an environs review.

The local review, however, generally is considered less stringent. In addition to encompassing a smaller review area — 250 feet versus 500 feet — the local law also uses a different set of guidelines to determine if a nearby development is damaging the historic character of a neighborhood.

As a result, historic planners at City Hall are likely to have fewer projects to review. Zollner estimates that a historic resources review would be triggered by development on any of about 1,500 pieces of property in Lawrence. Prior to the state law change, there were about 3,200 pieces of property where development would have triggered a historic resources review.

Zollner, however, said much of the property in downtown Lawrence will be subject to a full-fledged environs review. That’s because much of downtown is listed as a national historic district. The state law requires properties in those nationally recognized districts to undergo state review. In Lawrence, those reviews actually are done by the city’s historic resources staff, which has a contract with the state preservation office to conduct the reviews.

The review process has been contentious at times. It played a major role in projects such as the proposed hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, the Oread hotel, and the downtown building that formerly housed the Borders bookstore and currently is being used as the temporary library. Developers, at times, have argued that the review process has been too stringent and time consuming.

But it wasn’t developers who pushed for the change in the state law governing environs reviews. Instead, it was other cities. Kimberly Winn, deputy director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said about a dozen communities had expressed concern over the years that the environs review process was making it more difficult to redevelop their downtown areas.

Winn said her organization found that Kansas was the only state in the country to have a state-mandated environs review process. Most states rely on local communities to create their own processes to protect the areas around historic properties.

“This isn’t an anti-preservation effort at all,” Winn said. “There is nothing in the law that would prohibit a community from establishing their own rules or limitations. To us, it was about local control.”

Patrick Zollner, deputy state historic preservation officer — and Lynne Zollner's husband — said most communities in Kansas don’t have any local laws on the books related to historic preservation reviews.

Lawrence is an exception, and Dennis Brown, president of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, said it probably will become more important to try to convince property owners to have their historic properties added to the Lawrence Register of Historic places. There are several properties that are part of the national or state registers that aren’t on the local register because there currently are no financial incentives, such as tax credits, attached to the local register.


toe 5 years ago

Good common sense change to the law.

George_Braziller 5 years ago

No it isn't. Opens the door for a possible Taco Bell next to the Eldrdge House, whatever a developer wants to put in the empty parking lot north of the courthouse, or re-zoning efforts for any area around any neighborhood in Lawrence.

StanHernly 5 years ago

Absolutely correct George. Developers complain about environs review, but it has improved many projects and protected many historic properties from adverse neighboring development. Property rights cut both ways, and environs review is the only protection of an owner's rights to not have their historic property damaged by adjacent construction.

gccs14r 5 years ago

Great. So now the whole state can look like 6th and Wakarusa or the Westridge Mall area in Topeka. I can hardly wait. Maybe we can sell naming rights for the name of the state, or at least add a sponsorship line: "Kansas by Monsanto."

Bruce Bertsch 5 years ago

That would be "Kansas by Koch Industries"

George_Braziller 5 years ago

Or even worse southwest Wanamaker Drive in Topeka. That has to be one of the most depressing stretches of road in the entire mid-west. It's a half-mile wide parking lot with a lot of buildings just dropped in around the edges without any logic or plan.

1southernjayhawk 5 years ago

Or even worse...the Lawrence Arts Center in historic downtown.

joes_donuts 5 years ago

This will give Linda Zollner something to do now, since her job will not be overlapping with her husbands job at the State. Maybe now a house that a developer is moving will not be torn down without anyone from the city even questioning it until it is too late.

StanHernly 5 years ago

The house you're referring to, The Varsity House, at 1043 Indiana Street was saved only because of the required environs review. Otherwise it would have been wiped clean in one day, and the new Varsity House Apartments would not have an iconic historic house on the corner to hang its marketing hat on.

And it's Lynne Zollner, Historic Resources Administrator, for the City of Lawrence.

joes_donuts 5 years ago

It was wiped clean in about 3 weeks time, and the Historic Resources Admin didn't even question what they were doing with the house, or ever check how it was being disassembled, where it was being stored, and if they were following correct procedure. A waste of money for the City to have a Historic Resources Admin if they cannot even check on the projects they have.

Ockhams_Razor 5 years ago

The entire City Commission was recently flim-flammed by the Fritzells. What can poor little Zollner do to stop Fritzells deceit and chicanery.

patkindle 5 years ago

so what is wrong with a taco bell next to the eldridge house? a buck is a buck in downtown Lawrence

voevoda 5 years ago

"A buck is a buck in downtown Lawrence." Not if it makes downtown Lawrence into an unappealing strip mall, instead of a tourist destination. Then it costs the city and many of its merchants money, even if it makes someone a few bucks.

George_Braziller 5 years ago

Or if it turns into Aggieville. Downtown is on the cusp right now of becoming one.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

Koch and their minions would probably be happy to tear everything down in Kansas and build company housing. What use is an old building to them? It's not making them any money. They worship the god Money, and his misbegotten son, Greed.

StanHernly 5 years ago

Actually old buildings do make money for many of them through the Kansas Preservation Tax Credit program. That program would have been killed several years ago if it didn't financially benefit high-income Kansans, who "purchase" income tax credit at 85% of their value to offset their Kansas income tax, making a 15% profit along the way.

Anthony Mall 5 years ago

Here it is again... This is comical, scroll through articles online and you don't see anyone bashing the Obama administration for any of the crooked things they are doing and have done in the last 12 months ohhhhh no! It is all entirely the Koch brothers fault! Everything is blamed on two men, nothing is the fault of people in Lawrence, nope! Believe it or not brownback and the Koch brothers really don't care about Lawrence Kansas, in fact most of the state doesn't care! It is not a giant conspiracy so you can take off your foil hats kids... Lawrence has been moving backwards for a while now and most of the people to blame are right here in town.

Anthony Mall 5 years ago

I'm sure they are really concerned about the 70,000 people in Lawrence. Lawrence chooses to ignore corruption at the local level yet claims to know everything at the state level? Interesting.... Must of missed your link to the proof you have. Just saying, people in lawrence can't possibly think that everything is a conspiracy designed just for lawrence.... Really?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

88,727 (2011) According to Google Earth.

Eugehne Normandin 5 years ago

they might put a starbucks across the street from the Eldridge nope that already happened with the old law

dirt 5 years ago

"Historic" downtown and the HRC is a joke. Downtown is a bar district in old crumbling buildings, and bum haven. Let people fix the buildings up, and let the businesses prosper.

Matthew Herbert 5 years ago

Good decision- property OWNERS should have exclusive right to control THEIR property. Don't want a Taco Bell next to the Eldridge? Better buy that property up then

Brian Laird 5 years ago

Given the extent the use of adjacent property will affect the property values and quality of life of the neighbors, I must disagree. Living in a stable society with a decent standard of living requires compromise and regulation of use within the framework of the democratic process.

I've come to the opinion that the libertarian philosophy is just as dangerous and bankrupt a philosophy as communism.

gccs14r 5 years ago

There is no such thing as property ownership, only temporary possession with an obligation to leave said property in usable condition with no deleterious effect on adjoining properties.

kansasredlegs 5 years ago

Were these "environ reviews" in place when the Law Enforcement & Judicial Center was constructed? Besides the bank building at 9th & Mass, that has to be the ugliest, most non-historical looking building in all of downtown. If such reviews were in place, seems that the local government must be exempt which would be inherently unfair to property owners who have to jump through the circus hoops.

Jeremiah Jefferson 5 years ago

When you disregard history and art, your disregarding a peoples culture.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

After reading your comment I decide to learn more about the history of Lawrence about which I know very little. You are so right. Lawrence once was part of the Underground Railroad. I had no idea.

Thank you so much. I think it would be nice if the paper had a multi-part series on our history which is so much more than The Raid. There could also be art from the various events.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

Who was Kansas named in honor of? Kanza Nation: Kansas was named in honor of the Kanza Nation, a powerful Native American nation noted as far back as 1673. Father Marquette inscribed the name of the "Kanza" nation on his map of 1673. On October 5, 1859, a treaty was made by which a portion of the tribal reservation was set apart, and assigned in severalty to various individuals of the tribe.On May 8, 1872, an act was passed for the appraisal and sale of their lands, and their final removal from the State of Kansas to their reservation in Indian Territory, where they are now located. Their number is now (1882) reduced to about two hundred, a feeble, poverty-stricken remnant of the powerful nation from which the fair State of Kansas derived its name.

Jeremiah Jefferson 5 years ago

The Nazis in WW II are a good example of systematically trying to eliminate entire cultures. Aside from killing off nearly 1/3 of the worlds population of Jewish people at the time, they robbed, stole, and destroyed a ton of historic artifacts and art. By doing this they were not only making profit, but they were eliminating history and ruining the culture of not just Jewish people, but a great deal of other European cultures as well. Once you break a peoples culture, you break their will and reduce their way of life to nothing. That's not to say that is what is happening in Lawrence, but it is something to think about when considering weather a historic artifact is worth preserving or not.

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