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Archive for Monday, February 3, 2014

Dispute between homeowner, city continues over Rock Chalk Park lighting plan

February 3, 2014

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A plan for lighting the Rock Chalk Park sports complex in northwest Lawrence is still creating some sparks between the city and the homeowner who lives nearest the complex.

"It is pretty clear the city hasn't followed its own processes here," said Richard Hird, a Lawrence attorney representing Jack Graham, who is concerned a series of 100-foot tall light poles at Rock Chark Park will shine light into his home.

The concerns were brought forward by Graham in December after it was discovered city officials had improperly issued building permits for the complex. Officials issued building permits for the more-than $30 million complex before city commissioners were presented with a photometric lighting plan for the project.

"I'll be the first to admit that someone didn't follow the proper protocol," City Commissioner Bob Schumm said on Monday.

But Schumm said he also was confident that the proposed plan to light the complex — which includes stadiums for track and field, softball, soccer, outdoor tennis courts and a 181,000-square foot recreation center — would not cause any harm to nearby property owners.

"I strongly feel the light system will work well for everyone involved," Schumm said.

Hird, however, said city officials have no way of knowing whether the lights will damage nearby properties because the Rock Chalk Park development group — which is led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel — has not submitted a valid photometric plan to the city. Hird said a photometric plan should be created and stamped by a license engineer. What has been submitted to the city, he said, is largely just material produced by the manufacturer of the lights.

At the moment, Graham's residence is the only one near the Rock Chalk Park site. But future plans call for many apartments and homes to be built near the complex.

City officials on Monday weren't sure what their next steps would be. Schumm said the city planning department was researching whether the information submitted by the development group constituted a photometric plan under the city's code.

Schumm said, ultimately, a lighting plan will need to be presented to the City Commission for approval, although he is unsure whether it will need to be conducted by a licensed engineer.

In the meantime, construction work — except for work on the lights — continues at the site. Hird said his client hasn't tried to force the city to follow its own condition, which was that construction wouldn't occur on the site until a lighting plan had been approved.

But the breakdown in procedure has been frustrating, he said. Fritzel, the lead developer on the project, 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. In 2012, 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.

Schumm, however, said he did not think the city had a problem enforcing its codes. He said in this case, he believes the building permit was simply issued before all the conditions of approval were thoroughly checked.

"Generally, I think we have the system in place we need," Schumm said. "But this one got missed."

A timeline for when commissioners are expected to discuss the lighting issue hadn't been determined on Monday.

Comments

Matthew Herbert 5 months, 3 weeks ago

The city has no problem enforcing codes THAT THEY CHOOSE to enforce. From start to finish Rock Chalk park will be littered with inconsistencies, shady dealings, corruption and outright ignorance. We'll all have to wipe a little egg off our faces when we give Fritzel our taxes this year.

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John Kyle 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Jack Graham won't be forgotten by many. Destroying our history and heritage for a quick buck.

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