Typically, any developer who wants to do a project in Lawrence or Douglas County has to follow a prescribed process that involves answering a lot of questions about the nature of the development and the impact it will have on the community.
If the Delaware Indian tribe is successful in having land it has purchased north of Lawrence placed in federal trust, it will be able to bypass most of that development process, but that doesn’t mean local officials and other residents don’t have questions about what the tribe is planning.
Providing as many answers as they can to those questions would be a great way for the Delawares to start building a positive relationship with the community.
The Delawares have an ancestral claim to the land they have purchased just north of the East Lawrence interchange of the Kansas Turnpike, and their plans to move their tribal headquarters from Oklahoma would be a significant and potentially positive development for Lawrence. Following a visit with tribal leaders last week, local officials reported that the Delawares’ top priority is to establish themselves as a sovereign tribe in Kansas. The tribe had indicated earlier that their plans for the property might include housing, child care and a medical clinic. There are no plans for a casino they said, but they also told officials last week that weren’t willing to take that option off the table.
Local residents are understandably curious and concerned about what will happen to this property, which is prominently located near a major gateway into the city. It’s a piece of prime farmland, and some are concerned about the impact any kind of development would have on stormwater runoff and flooding in the area. A casino would raise additional concerns.
It’s unlikely that a casino would be approved at that site if the project had to go through the standard planning process. Even if the land is given trust status, the tribe would have to jump through a different set of hoops to gain approval for a casino, including negotiating a compact with the state of Kansas and perhaps working with local officials to extend police, fire and utility services to the site.
Whatever the future holds, having officials of the Delaware tribe and local government working together will result in a more positive and beneficial future for the North Lawrence property. Timely communication is a good first step.