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Archive for Tuesday, May 13, 2014

City commissioner proposes tax increase to fund bicycle, sidewalk projects in 2015

May 13, 2014

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It is going to take more than old-fashioned pedal power to make Lawrence into a first-rate bicycle-friendly community. City Commissioner Bob Schumm suspects it will it take a bit of tax increase too.

Schumm at Tuesday evening's Lawrence City Commission meeting urged commissioners to consider a half-mill property tax increase in 2015 to fund a variety of projects related to bicycle paths, sidewalk repairs and other improvements that would make the public less reliant on motorized transportation.

"We could have a real network for nonmotorized transportation," Schumm said. "Everything we have right now is too piecemeal."

A half-mill property tax increase likely would generate about $450,000 in funding in 2015. Schumm said that over a 10-year period the dedicated funding source could lead to substantial projects and could be used to help leverage numerous grant opportunities for bicycle and sidewalk projects.

An increase of a half-mill in the city's tax rate would add about $8.60 to the annual property tax bill of a $150,000 home in the city.

A large crowd showed up at City Hall Tuesday to support the idea of more bicycle funding being included in the city's budget. Michael Almon, a leader of the Lawrence-based Sustainability Action Network, urged commissioners to spend about $2 million a year on bicycle-related projects in the city. He said the city has talked for years about a creating a network of bicycle routes and paths, but the system doesn't work well for bicyclists who want to rely less on cars.

"Bicycles traditionally have been viewed here as recreation rather than transportation," Almon said.

Commissioners took no action on Schumm's funding request. Instead, it will be considered during budget deliberations that will take place through July at City Hall. Commissioners are scheduled to conduct their first study session for the 2015 budget on Tuesday.

In other news, commissioners:

• Approved a city advisory board's recommendations on funding allocations for the Community Development Block Grant and HOME funds that the city receives from the federal government.

• Agreed to add the Haskell French House, 1300 Haskell Ave., and the John G. Haskell House, 1340 Haskell Ave., to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places.

• Approved on second and final reading a rezoning ordinance that would allow a 108-room hotel to be built as part of the Bauer Farm development near Sixth and Overland Drive. Commissioners approved the rezoning on first reading last week, but on Tuesday heard concerns from Lawrence Public Schools Supt. Rick Doll about a hotel being located so close to Free State High School. Commissioners agreed to the rezoning but directed staff members to bring back any final development plans for the property for future City Commission approval. Currently, the development group does not have a developer for the hotel project.

City commissioners noted the zoning ordinance does prohibit a traditional bar from being located in the hotel. Any drinking establishment in the hotel would be required to make at least 55 percent of all its sales from food.

Comments

Matthew Herbert 7 months, 1 week ago

Aren't we already paying a "sidewalk tax" as part of the water bill? Wasn't that sold to the public as a way to fund the repair of sidewalks?

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

I would say the answer is no. It was a concept City Manager David Corliss presented some time ago but went nowhere.

When matters such is being discussed about a revenue source voters should request language that protects this money to be used as is suggested. Dedicated to specific projects. Otherwise taxpayers run the risk of getting duped.

IF it is written up as for "infrastructure" repairs or enhancements and not specifically for say sidewalk rehab/construction/maintenance and shared use paths rehab/ construction/maintenance then again taxpayers run the risk of getting duped.

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

Studies Show Bike Commuting Is One of the Best Ways to Stay Healthy http://grist.org/cities/studies-show-that-bike-commuting-is-one-of-the-best-ways-to-stay-healthy/

But here’s bona fide scholarly research that excites me in the same way: Biking for transportation appears more helpful in losing weight and promoting health than working out at the gym. A recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says “Commuting is a relevant health behavior even for those who are sufficiently active in their leisure time.”

This means I can spend less time wearing a grimace as I endure mind-numbing exercise routines and more time wearing a smile as I bike to work, shopping and social events. Just what I always thought.

“Commuting is a relevant health behavior even for those who are sufficiently active in their leisure time.”

http://grist.org/cities/studies-show-that-bike-commuting-is-one-of-the-best-ways-to-stay-healthy/

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

"It is going to take more than old-fashioned pedal power to make Lawrence into a first-rate bicycle-friendly community."

In reality this about making Lawrence a first rate bicycling community however revitalizing sidewalks is a large issue for those who cannot bike ,drive or simply choose to walk.

Lawrence is wanting to attract "baby boomer" senior citizens which is an active group who will want to live in neighborhoods and will want want safe walkways and safe cycling. Some of this active group will be attracted to older neighborhoods over assisted living arrangements.

Not only that we have a community that includes electric wheel chairs which would appreciate safe travel as well. Some would prefer to not always ride. This will require rehab of sidewalks throughout our older neighborhoods.

Children need safe pathways for riding to school and back as well. Not to mention parents enjoy safe pathways for teaching children safe cycling and walking rules.

Rick Johnson 7 months, 1 week ago

Hold on a minute, isn't that why we are already paying a crazy amount of property taxes already?????

When is it going to stop??????

Remember you are trying to bring retired people to Lawrence. Continuing to raise taxes is not going to achieve that!!

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

"baby boomer" senior citizens which is an active group who will want to live in neighborhoods and will want want safe walkways and safe cycling. Some of this active group will be attracted to older neighborhoods over assisted living arrangements.

This group has been riding bicycles and walking for several decades. We spent a good deal of our honeymoon on bicycles that we rode and toted everywhere.

Cheryl Nelsen 7 months, 1 week ago

Some of those baby boomers aren't physically capable of riding a bike around the city. I do not think the biking plan is being made with retirees or baby boomers in mind.

Marilyn Hull 7 months, 1 week ago

The plan would fund sidewalk repair and connections too. This would help anyone who walks and anyone who uses an assistive device such as a walker, wheelchair, motorized wheelchair or motorized scooter.

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

Baby boomers/retirees are still part of the equation for the walkable/cycling community.

Yes there are senior citizens bicycling Lawrence with some degree of frequency. Lots of them walking as well. Becoming a senior citizen does not mean that people quit enjoying plenty of exercise and fresh air.

Of course some become incapable then again that can happen at most any age which is another reason why Lawrence should rehab/add on/maintain this type of transportation. Outdoor exercise helps keep depression in check.

Marilyn Hull 7 months, 1 week ago

No. Current property taxes don't generally cover these costs.

You are right that retired people are especially sensitive to property tax increases. But some also greatly need transportation options that don't involve driving. It is hard to even walk your dog around the block when the sidewalks in your neighborhood are hazardous.

Marilyn Hull 7 months, 1 week ago

Chad: Michael's last name is spelled Almon.

Eric MacDonald 7 months, 1 week ago

A little secret, the availability and condition of sidewalks and bicycle paths has little to do with reliance on automobiles. It seems this city has yet to find a tax increase it didn't like.

Clark Coan 7 months, 1 week ago

$400,000 isn't much money. That should be on top of the required 20% matches for federal TE funds.

Bike commuting is up 60% nationally, but Lawrence is not doing good when it comes to commuting by bike. See this list:

Percentage of commuters who commute by bike: Davis, CA 18.6% Key West, FL 17.4% Boulder, CO 10.5% Santa Cruz, CA 9.2% Eugene, OR 8.7% Palo Alto, CA 8.5% Berkeley, CA 8.1% Cambridge, MA 7.2% Fort Collins, CO 6.8% Portland, OR 6.1% Madison, WI 5.1% Boise, ID 3.7% Seattle, WA 3.4%

George Lippencott 7 months, 1 week ago

Is there no limit to our lawgiver’s efforts to pander?? Is this really the next highest priority? What about the police? Advocacy is wonderful but we should not consider a small crowd as representative of the citizenry in general.

THis is not an issue of "goodness" but of priority.

Wayne Kerr 7 months, 1 week ago

Yeah, $8.60 a year isn't a lot of money when you consider it's probably less than you're going to pay to park your car and get a bag of chips at the new recreation center. It's probably less than you're going to pay in "special" tax to rent a room at the new high rise hotel downtown. If you don't want to pay any new taxes, I suggest you buy some property, propose building a new apartment or hotel complex, complain that there's insufficient parking, and that it's not economically feasible for you unless you're exempt from paying any new property taxes and then demand that the city provide you your own "special" tax district to pay for it all.

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

Isn't what you described a tax increase on the community? That got around voter approval?

A back door sales tax increase that is the profit over and above the zillions in tax abatements.

A sweet venue of tax increases…… aka Free Lunch.

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/transcript.html

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2012-04-27/hightower-report-workers-wages-lost-to-the-boss/

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

George Lippencott 7 months, 1 week ago

Wayne,

My question was priority not taxes.

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

However rehabilitating neighborhood walks and connecting all shared use paths would be a fiscal responsible use of tax dollars. Lawrence,Kansas has a lot of walkers and a fair amount of cyclists.

George Lippencott 7 months, 1 week ago

yep, so is mental health, existing roads, schools and so on. Why this one in stead of those?

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