Archive for Thursday, February 6, 2014

Editorial: Enforcement issue

Problems with a lighting plan at Rock Chalk Park may point to a broader enforcement issue for the city.

February 6, 2014


A requirement that isn’t enforced really amounts to no requirement at all. It’s troubling that Lawrence city commissioners aren’t willing to acknowledge that.

It’s nonsensical for Commissioner Bob Schumm to say that the fact that the developers of Rock Chalk Park were not required to submit an approved lighting plan before receiving their building permit doesn’t indicate the city has a problem enforcing its codes.

“Generally, I think we have the system in place we need,” he said. “But this one got missed.”

It doesn’t matter if the system is “in place,” if it isn’t properly enforced — not just “generally” but consistently and universally.

It’s not like Rock Chalk Park is a small project that simply slipped through the cracks. It is a $30 million project that has been the subject of considerable consternation because of its unorthodox bidding process and the fact that its developer has a history of going ahead with projects and asking permission later for work that deviates from city codes. It shouldn’t be any surprise to commissioners that the project is drawing an unusual amount of scrutiny and that local taxpayers expect the city to hold the developer to the letter of his agreement and not allow him to cut any corners.

According to the attorney representing a neighboring property owner, the Rock Chalk Park development group, led by Thomas Fritzel, still hasn’t submitted a valid photometric plan to the city. Instead of a plan prepared by a licensed engineer, the developers have submitted mostly materials from the manufacturer of the lights — which already have been installed. Schumm said the planning department was researching whether that satisfied the city’s code.

They don’t know? What’s the precedent? Have they accepted literature from the manufacturer instead of a lighting plan from an engineer for other developments? If not, why would they accept it here?

The city of Lawrence often is criticized for setting requirements that make development too difficult. In many cases, people who are trying to do projects complain that city officials are inconsistent or unclear in spelling out the requirements that must be met. Sometimes —perhaps in this case —that might work to a developer’s advantage but, many times, it does not. Either way, it’s a problem for the city about which commissioners and city administrators should be more concerned.


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