The Rock Chalk Park sports complex is set to have a nearly 900-unit apartment complex and a golf course as its neighbor.
Lawrence City Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved development plans for an apartment complex that will have a nine-hole, par-3 golf course that will be free for residents of the apartment complex to play but also open to the general public.
The project, called The Links at Lawrence, will be just east of the Rock Chalk Park sports complex, which is near the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The Arkansas-based development company proposing the project estimated construction will start no earlier than the spring of 2016, and the first phase of 600 apartments will be ready for occupancy by perhaps early 2017.
The golf course element of the project came as a surprise to city officials Tuesday night. The project’s developer — Lindsey Management — has submitted various plans to the city over the past seven years for the property. Commissioners previously had approved a plan that included a golf course, but earlier this year the company withdrew that proposal and submitted a new proposal that did not include a golf course. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission last month approved that version of the plan.
But on Thursday, the company submitted a revised plan to City Hall that slightly reduced the number of apartments, from 900 to 842. That plan included a nine-hole golf course, but city planning staff members mistakenly did not think it was a full-fledged golf course. Instead, they believed it was a recreational area for foot golf, an emerging game that is played like golf, but players use their feet, a soccer ball and shoot at larger cups. But at Tuesday’s meeting, Lindsey officials clarified that the course would be a full-fledged golf course, although it also may include an area for foot golf. Linsdsey Management operates 41 golf courses, and a Lindsey official said Tuesday that the company's owner simply decided he couldn't part with the idea of the development including a golf course.
City commissioners were unfazed by the golf course addition. Instead, they spent most of their time talking about an approximately 40 acre, heavily-wooded, cliff-laden tract that is considered environmentally sensitive. Commissioners supported the plan after being assured by planners that no development could occur on that portion of the property, unless approved by a future city commission.
“One of the things that is so exciting to me is that this development is not cutting into those woods,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever. "It is working around the sensitive lands. I think it is a great victory for conservation.”
The development is providing about twice as much open space than is required by the city’s development code.
The apartment development also is notable for another reason: It is the largest residential development approved thus far that is outside the Lawrence school district. As the city has grown to the northwest, the city has entered the Perry-Lecompton school district. The Rock Chalk Park sports complex also is in the Perry-Lecompton school district, but does not include any residential uses. Property to the south of Rock Chalk Park, including some housing developments under construction, are in the Lawrence school district. A large, undeveloped area generally north of Rock Chalk Park and east of the South Lawrence Trafficway is in the Perry-Lecompton school district and is expected to be the subject of future residential development.
Officials with The Links development said they do not anticipate a large number of school-aged children living in the apartment complex. Lawrence public school district officials have said they do not intend to grant large numbers of transfer requests for students who live in the newly developing area. Perry-Lecompton officials have said they are eagerly awaiting the area to develop and will provide bus service to the district’s elementary, middle school and high school, which are about 15 to 20 minutes away in northern Douglas County and southern Jefferson County.