Entries from blogs tagged with “Town Talk”
Some restaurants hang dollar bills from their walls, while others hang windows from their ceilings.
What? You haven’t heard of that? It is the thing at downtown Lawrence’s newest restaurant, Loopy’s, which is on the ground floor of the 901 Building at Ninth and New Hampshire.
If you remember, we reported back in September that a trio of restaurant and marketing executives had teamed up to sign a deal to locate a new restaurant/wine bar in a corner of the multi-story apartment and office building.
Well, the business is having its soft opening today and expects to roll out its full menu and bar later this week. But what it already has in great supply are windows. There are dozens and dozens of windows suspended from the ceiling and hanging from the walls of the restaurant.
Billy Pilgrim, a Lawrence marketing executive and one of the co-owners of the business, said the design fits in well with the restaurant’s goal of becoming a Lawrence original. “I don’t think there is anything quite like it in Lawrence,” Pilgrim said.
For one thing, it may be the only restaurant in town that has about a hundred people living directly above it. Pilgrim thinks a restaurant that intersects with where people live is going to have a bit of a different feel than an ordinary restaurant and bar.
As for the food, that’s being handled by the other two partners in the business: David Lewis, the founder of the recently closed Milton’s restaurant; and longtime Lawrence chef Sula Teller, who also happens to be married to Pilgrim.
The menu has breakfast — which will be served from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. — lunch/dinner, and late-night options.
On the breakfast side, you’ll be able to get everything from “daily porridge” — no word on whether you have to share a table with a bear — to lots of take-out items like granola, breads and pastries to slightly more complex items like a frittata or apple frangipani, which are stuffed apples with roasted nuts, toast and butter. The place also will offer a full-line of coffees, including espressos and lattes.
Lunch and dinner items include a large dose of flatbreads and pizzas. The menu includes about a dozen pizza items, including classics such as sausage and pepperoni to ones such as sweet potato and speck ham. The menu also includes salads and soups.
The happy hour and late-night menu will include the pizzas, but also will have a variety of fruit and cheese trays, gourmet olives, and plates of smoked salmon and trout. Of course the hour wouldn’t be all that happy unless some adult beverages also were offered. The restaurant will have a well-stocked wine cellar, and the menu I’ve seen lists about 35 craft beers coming from as close as Free State Brewery to as far away as places such as California, Colorado, Canada and Belgium.
As I mentioned, the restaurant is rolling out its offerings in phases. Pilgrim told me many of the menu items are available today, but the full-line of offerings won’t be available until later this week.
Knology set to drop WGN, RFD TV and other networks from cable lineup; Baker files plans for $1.2 million wetland education center; study finds Lawrence has among the lowest development fees in the region
News and notes from around town:
• Oh my. Fans of Cubs baseball and country music are in for a shock. Lawrence’s Knology cable television system is set to drop several channels, including the Cubs’ WGN network and RFD TV, a network that shows country music and programming aimed at a rural audience.
Knology’s top Lawrence official confirmed to me that the company is in the process of dropping WGN from its cable lineup effective Dec. 31.
But there are other changes coming before then. Beginning tomorrow, Knology will drop RFD TV, Family Net and the TV Guide Channel, which shouldn’t be confused with the guide button that is on your cable remote. That on-screen guide will continue to be in place.
Debra Schmidt, system manager for Knology Kansas, told me the decisions have been difficult but are part of a much bigger picture of what is going on in the cable industry.
The big players in the cable industry — think ESPN and Food Network and such — are gaining more and more leverage over cable companies all the time. The big programming companies bundle their popular networks together with their less popular networks and require cable providers to take the whole bunch or none at all. As a result, fees that the cable companies must pay to the big-time programmers have been increasing.
Schmidt said in order to control costs, Knology has had to make some tough decisions about dropping some smaller cable networks that don’t have such leverage.
The folks at RFD TV are not taking the decision sitting down. An executive with RFD TV recently flew into Lawrence to discuss the issue with Lawrence city commissioners, and the mayor did send a letter to Knology asking it to reconsider its decision to drop RFD TV. But Schmidt said the change will continue as planned.
Two other channels also will be dropped from the system beginning tomorrow: Blue Highways, a network that features older music and tends to lean towards the Americana side of things; and Family Net TV.
It looks like some of the shows on the networks are available for viewing on the Web sites of the networks.
• Here’s another sign that the South Lawrence Trafficway actually is going to get built, and no this one doesn’t involve icicles in Hades. (Don’t worry, though, that still applies to the Cubs and the World Series.)
Baker University has filed plans at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to build a $1.2 million wetland education center near the wetlands that the university is creating as part of the mitigation efforts for the South Lawrence Trafficway project.
The plans call for a 10,000-square-foot wetland education center that will have a large display area, two classrooms, a kitchen, a gift shop and office space. The project also calls for a 3,000-square-foot maintenance building for the property. The project is set to be built near the main entrance of the wetlands area, which is at 1365 North 1250 Road.
Roger Boyd, Baker’s director of the wetlands, told me he expects the new building can accommodate up to 170 people at a time for presentations and other related activities. Baker is betting that the education center will draw interest from the general community, but particularly will be a popular place for school field trips.
“The display area will have a lot of exhibits about what to look for when you are out here, and about why wetlands are important,” Boyd said.
Baker already has moved a new house to the site, which will provide a place for the resident manager of the wetlands to live. I believe the house came from just east of Haskell Avenue and was one of the handful of houses that are in the path of the trafficway.
The wetland center and the restoration or creation of about 300 acres of new wetlands are being funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation to compensate for the loss of about 60 acres of wetlands that will be lost to the SLT project. As part of the mitigation plan, Baker will receive about $9 million as an endowment to manage the wetland property.
Baker, Boyd said, hasn’t yet received that money, but is expected to in fall 2013. Boyd said the university wants to begin the planning and approval process now so construction on the center could begin in March 2014 with an opening in fall 2014.
“I’m still pinching myself,” said Boyd, who has been officially overseeing the care of the wetlands since 1982 and has been wrapped up in all the legal wrangling of the SLT project. “I’m still having a hard time believing that it actually is going to happen.”
• While we’re talking about projects that have taken a long time to develop in Lawrence, there is a new study out that refutes some perceptions about Lawrence’s business-unfriendly environment.
A group of business students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Society for Industrial Office Realtors have released a new report that looks at the amount of fees cities in the area charge for commercial and industrial development projects.
Lawrence ended up being one of the clear-cut bargains in the area. Lawrence had the third lowest fee total in the office building category and the second lowest total in the industrial building category.
In both cases, the fees charged in Lawrence were more than $200,000 less than what were charged in the most expensive communities. Interestingly, the highest fees charged were in two communities often touted as being more business-friendly than Lawrence: Overland Park and Lenexa.
The authors of the study submitted actual architectural site plans to the planning department of each city, and asked the department to provide a fake invoice for fees that would be due on the project. The first project was for a $9.6 million, 60,000-square-foot office building on a 10-acre site. Here’s a look at the total development fees for each community:
— Blue Springs, Mo.: $98,092 l — Columbia, Mo.: $46,801 — Gardner: $145,428 — Grandview, Mo.: $92,479 — Independence, Mo.: $79,179 — Kansas City, Mo.: $130,751 — Lawrence: $48,057 — Leawood: $98,181 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $130,991 — Lenexa: $261,318 — Liberty, Mo.: $117,091 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $122,411 — Olathe: $188,972 — Overland Park: $248,773 — Riverside, Mo.: $37,760
The second project was for a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot warehouse industrial building on about 15 acres of property. Here’s a look at those fees:
— Blue Springs, Mo.: $100,919 — Columbia, Mo.: $71,894 — Gardner: $199,423 — Grandview: $86,091 — Independence, Mo.: $185,869 — Kansas City, Mo.: $134,650 — Lawrence: $48,768 — Leawood: $110,962 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $115,729 — Lenexa: $334,873 — Liberty, Mo.: $160,887 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $169,282 — Olathe: $267,881 — Overland Park: $337,482 — Riverside, Mo.: $44,360
This group did the same study in 2010, and the results were much the same: Lawrence was near the bottom in terms of fees charged.
The findings could be spun a couple of different ways in Lawrence. One is that leaders could tout how aggressive Lawrence is in trying to attract business to the community. But another viewpoint might be whether Lawrence is charging too little for development fees, causing general taxpayers to subsidize a service that is supposed to be supported by fees. The city has done some studying on that question and doesn't believe it is the case. Many of the fees — especially in Johnson County — are impact fees for roads, parks and even art that Lawrence simply doesn't charge.
The entire study raises an interesting question: How much do development fees play into the decision making of developers? I haven’t done all the math, but I suspect many of these communities with higher fees have had higher job growth rates than Lawrence has. I know many of them have a greater percentage of business and industry as a part of their tax base than Lawrence does.
So, how does this play into the mantra that Lawrence is unfriendly to business? Well, if you hear people saying that Lawrence charges outrageous fees — and I hear that sometimes — you might want to take those comments with a grain of salt.
But it also is worth remembering there are a couple of different types of development processes in Lawrence. The one studied here is for a developer that is proposing to build on a shovel-ready site. There are a few shovel-ready commercial and industrial sites in Lawrence, but it would be interesting to see how our inventory stacks up against other communities. My guess is we have less.
Often, development of any size in Lawrence requires a developer to rezone a piece of property to fit his or her needs. When people think of some of the more high profile business squabbles or rejections in Lawrence — such as Wal-mart of several years ago, Lowe’s more recently or plans for an industrial park near the Lawrence Municipal Airport — those often had zoning issues attached to them.
So, what I’m saying here, is I don’t think this study is going to end the debate about whether Lawrence is adequately business-friendly enough. Imagine that — a debate in Lawrence continuing on.
• Town Talk is taking a day off tomorrow, and I plan on debating no one. (Although that will require me hiding from my family all day in my basement, but I’m willing to give it a try.) Town Talk will return on Monday.
National boutique Francesca’s Collections coming to downtown; nearly 3,000 runners slated to participate in Saturday’s Ugly Sweater Run; organizers planning to bring Color Run back for 2013
News and notes from around town:
• It appears another growing, national specialty retailer is targeting downtown Lawrence.
It looks like Francesca’s Collections is preparing to move into the long vacant space at 742 Massachusetts St. If you are having a hard time picturing that spot, it is just north of Teller’s restaurant.
I haven’t gotten confirmation from the company about the deal, but the retailer has filed for a sign permit at Lawrence City Hall. That’s usually a pretty good indication a deal has been sealed.
At first I was very excited about this news, but that was mainly because I misread the permit. I thought it was Fraschilla’s Collections, as in Fran Fraschilla, former St. John’s University basketball coach and current ESPN college basketball commentator. Just think of the wonders that man’s collections would include: Super industrial strength ear plugs to block out Dick Vitale, as well as tips on how to stay on Bob Knight’s good side. (Tip No. 1: Never meet Bob Knight.)
But no, this is Francesca’s Collections. I don’t know who Francesca is, but I’m sure there will be plenty of people excited about her entry into Lawrence. According to its Web site, the retailer is a traditional type of boutique that offers women’s clothing, bags, shoes, jewelry and a few gift items.
The company has at least four locations in the Kansas City metro area, including at Oak Park Mall, Town Center Plaza, and Country Club Plaza.
The deal continues a recent trend of growing national or regional retailers targeting downtown. Off the top of my head, there have been White House Black Market, Ten Thousand Villages, and if you remember, we reported last month a store called Earthbound Trading Company is coming to downtown, although we haven’t yet seen official word of which spot they will be taking.
• I don’t know if Francesca’s plans to sell ugly holiday sweaters, but you’ll have a chance to see plenty in downtown this weekend.
As we previously reported, an event called The Ugly Sweater Run is coming to downtown Lawrence. But we now have more details about the run. It is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday with the start/finish and celebration area slated for Watson Park. City officials believe the 2 p.m. start time will ensure all the horses from the Downtown Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade — which starts at 11 a.m. — will be cleared from the area. (Although it would be interesting to see how a 1,000-pound-plus draft horse reacts to a man in a lime green sweater adorned with candy canes, snow flakes and phrases that involve “ho, ho, ho.”)
But the big news is just how many people want to come to downtown Lawrence and run a race wearing an ugly sweater. Bob Sanner with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau said 2,200 runners already have signed up for the event, and a favorable weather forecast has organizers hopeful the event will hit the 3,000 mark.
If this crazy event sounds a bit like the oddity that was The Color Run in September — an event in which runners wore white shirts and then got sprayed with colored corn starch — you are correct.
The same company that organized The Color Run is organizing the The Ugly Sweater Run, which also will be happening in nine other cities across the country.
Evidently the company thinks Lawrence is a good running community or else it has figured out that if you offer to sell beer outside afterward, locals will come to about any event. (Samuel Adams is the event sponsor of the Ugly Sweater Run, if that tells you anything about the post race celebration planned for Watson Park.)
Sanner confirmed race organizers are planning to bring The Color Run back to Lawrence in 2013. Organizers tentatively have set the date for Sept. 14. This year’s Color Run race drew about 7,000 runners to downtown.
Lecompton and Downtown Lawrence’s Christmas parade both garner national media attention; Lawrence ranks low in new per capita income report, while Manhattan soars
News and notes from around town:
• Forget the fiscal cliff, forget the Middle East conflict, heck, even forget Black Friday (I wish I could). The national media finally has found a worthy place to sink its teeth into: Douglas County.
Lawrence and Douglas County have received a pair of high-profile articles from the national media in recent days.
At the top of the list is little Lecompton and its tireless top-hat-clad promoter. If you have ever been to an event in Lecompton, chances are you either met or at least saw Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society. Well, now so too has The New York Times.
The Times last week ran an article on Lecompton and Bahnmaier’s efforts to get the town of about 600 people national recognition as Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” hits the big screen.
The movie is based on the book “Team of Rivals,” which mentions Lecompton and the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution that set in motion a series of political events that would culminate with Lincoln’s election.
Bahnmaier has been contacting media outlets throughout the state and region, urging them to take a look at Lecompton’s history.
As he told The Times, Lecompton should not play second fiddle to more well-known Civil War sites such as Fort Sumter, Gettysburg or Appomattox.
“None of those places would be important had the events not occurred here in Lecompton,” Bahnmaier told The Times.
The article is a good primer on Lecompton’s importance in the broader picture of the Civil War and Lincoln’s rise to power. But even more than that, it is just nice recognition for a man who has devoted himself to ensuring Lecompton’s important role in national history is not forgotten.
By the sound of things, Bahnmaier has gotten fairly excited about the surge in national interest in Lecompton. The Times’ article revealed that Bahnmaier routinely dines on a turkey sandwich at Kroeger’s Country Meats in Lecompton. But on a recent afternoon, “he was so excited about the possibility of national coverage of the town’s history that he allowed himself a quarter-pound cheeseburger.”
Now, that’s pretty excited.
The second recent article has organizers of Lawrence’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade excited. The parade will make its way down Massachusetts Street for the 20th time at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The folks at USA Today named the parade as one of “10 Great Places to Put a Spin on the Christmas Spirit.” The article promotes the parade as one of the few places where you can still get that old-fashioned Christmas feel.
Lawrence, however, has some interesting competition. One is The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The hotel is Christmas themed all year round. It features a singing Santa and a nearby gift shop that has “tens of thousands” of holiday accessories.
That sounds like pure Hell. It may be the only hotel in the country where Norman Bates visiting your shower may improve your stay.
Then there is something called Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas. It involves people dressed up in the Victorian clothing of Dickens’ era. It also includes something called “bed races.”
No thank you. My wife had me train for one of those once. It involved me on a roll-away cot, my basement stairs and her giving me a big push.
I knew there was a reason I never liked Dickens.
• There is a new report out that probably won’t cause Lawrence to garner any national headlines. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its estimates for 2011 per capita income in each of the country’s 366 metro areas.
Lawrence isn’t likely to land on any “best of” lists in this category. The Lawrence metro area — which is all of Douglas County — has a per capita income of $33,379, which ranks it 271 out of the 366 metro areas. There is good news though. Lawrence’s per capita income grew in 2011, which was not the case in 2010. In fact, for the first time since 2007, every metro area in the country saw an increase in per capita income. Lawrence’s per capita income grew by 3.5 percent for the year. Nationally, however, the average metro area saw its per capita income grow by 4.3 percent. If those are the Joneses up ahead, we’re not keeping up.
I’ll tell you a community that is, though: Manhattan. Our friends in the K-State capital now have an average per capita income of $43,593. That’s right, folks in Manhattan have about $10,000 more in per capita income than folks in Lawrence. (This is normally where I would make some sort of math-related joke involving Wildcats, but it appears they understand math better than we do.) Manhattan’s per capita income growth rate was 6.4 percent in 2011, and the city now has the 55th highest per capita income of any metro area in the country.
And you thought the beating we took on the football field was bad.
Lawrence leaders long have pointed to the city’s role as a university community as a drag on per capita income. There are certainly many university communities that suffer from low per capita incomes as the result of students who drag down the average. But anymore, it seems there are just as many university communities that have diversified their economies and have negated the downward income pressure create by low-earning students.
Here’s a look at several communities. Some are university towns, while others are not. I mainly picked regional communities and others I thought you would be interested in:
— Lawrence: $33,379; 3.5 percent growth — Ames, Iowa: $37,429; 6.1 percent growth — Austin, Texas: $40,455; 3.9 percent growth — Boulder, Colo.: $51,893; 3.7 percent growth — Columbia, Mo.: $37,350; 4.1 percent growth — Iowa City, Iowa: $41,277; 6.1 percent growth — Jefferson City, Mo.: $35,453; 3.2 percent growth — Joplin, Mo.: $31,408; 3.9 percent growth — Kansas City Mo./Kan.: $43,062; 3.9 percent growth — Lincoln, Neb.: $39,018; 4.8 percent — Lubbock, Texas: $34.573; 1.9 percent growth — Manhattan: $43,593; 6.4 percent growth — Oklahoma City, Okla.: $40,002; 5.9 percent growth — Omaha, Neb.: $44,470; 4.4 percent growth — St. Joseph, Mo.: $34,189; 4.8 percent growth — Springfield, Mo.: $33,302; 4.1 percent growth — Topeka: $37,765; 5.2 percent growth — Tulsa, Okla.: $42,236; 6.8 percent growth — Waco, Texas: $33,943; 2.7 percent growth — Wichita: $38,568; 4.4 percent growth
Chestnut likely to file for seat on City Commission; expanded rental registration up for debate at City Hall; sidewalk umbrellas and sandwich boards may draw new city regulations
News and notes from around town:
• Who’s ready for another election? Well, it doesn’t matter, you are getting one anyway. The end of the presidential election typically marks the beginning of the local campaign season for city commission and school board races.
This year is no exception. The streets are starting to fill with scuttlebutt about who may run and who may not run in April’s Lawrence City Commission race.
It is likely one shoe will drop this week. I fully expect former Lawrence Mayor Rob Chestnut to announce that he will run for the City Commission. Chestnut chose not to see re-election after ending a four-year term on the commission in early 2011. After a two-year break, all the signs are pointing to him making another bid, but he hasn’t yet made an official announcement.
Chestnut was considered a bit of a budget wizard (is a wizard better than a wonk?) on the City Commission. He is the former chief financial officer for Lawrence-based Allen Press, and now holds the same type of position for a Topeka-based publishing company. The man loves numbers, and I suspect he’ll crunch many of them during a campaign that probably will have its fair share of questions about financial matters — ranging from possible water and sewer bill increases to big ticket items such as the proposed $25 million recreation center.
As always, there are three commissioners on the five-member City Commission whose terms are expiring — Mike Amyx, Hugh Carter and Aron Cromwell. None has made an announcement about whether he seeks to run again.
Indications, however, are that Amyx will run again. As for Carter and Cromwell, I think there is a less than a 50 percent chance that either of them will seek re-election. I’m not sure either of them feels like he is in a position that to make the time commitment for the next two to four years, which is the length of a City Commission term. (First and second place winners in the election get a four-year term. Third place winners get a two-year term. Over the years, I’ve heard many incumbents say they would run again, if they could be guaranteed to finish third.)
So, Amyx and Chestnut would make two, but don’t forget Scott Criqui already has filed for the office. Criqui — a human resources commissioner for the city who also was recently named interim executive director for Lawrence-based Trinity In-Home Care — started campaigning for the 2013 City Commission race roughly during the Hoover Administration. Well, not quite. He filed for office back in June.
As for others who may jump into the race, I know that Leslie Soden — the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association president who has led some of the opposition to the proposed hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire — has been contemplating a run. It will be interesting to see if she decides to run. She recently got a prime political appointment from City Hall when she was named to the new Joint Economic Development Council.
I would expect at least a couple more candidates will emerge. Two years ago, there were five candidates, and that was the smallest field in memory. Historically, there usually are eight or nine candidates, and sometimes we have been around a dozen.
• Here’s a topic that likely will be a campaign issue regardless of how city commissioners deal with it at their meeting this week: Rental registration.
As we previously reported, some neighborhood advocates are lobbying the city to expand its rental registration program to include all rental units in the city. Absent that, they would like to have at least all rental units 50 years and older be required to register, which would subject them to periodic health and safety inspections from the city.
Currently, only single-family zoned properties that are used as rentals are required to register with the city and undergo the city inspections once every three years. That accounts for only about 10 percent of the rental units in the city.
Commissioners are set to debate the idea at their Tuesday evening meeting. Commissioners will be presented with several sets of numbers related to a possible expansion of the program. They include:
— A program that would inspect all rental units at least 50 years old once every three years. The city estimates the program would add about 2,500 rental units initially. City staff members believe they would need to hire one new inspector and one new administrative assistant to staff the program. Total startup costs are projected to be about $86,000.
— A program that would inspect all rental units in the city once every three years. The city estimates the program would add about 18,600 units to the program and would require five new inspectors and two new administrative assistants. Total startup costs are projected to be about $370,000.
The city currently charges a $25 annual fee for rental units that are part of the city’s rental inspection program that covers only single-family zoned rentals.
The annual fee would need to increase to about $45 in order to cover the additional operating costs if the program is expanded to include all units at least 50 years old, a report from City Hall estimates. But due to economies of scale, the city estimates the current $25 fee would nearly cover the additional operating costs if all units in the city were inspected.
It will be interesting to see how much the city’s landlord community fights the proposal. I think they’ll need to put up a fairly stiff effort, if they want to ward off the new regulations.
Commissioners in the past have expressed support for expanding the program, but always have balked at the start-up costs. Given some of the city’s past spending decisions, it will be more difficult for the city to argue that it can’t afford the one-time start-up costs.
But commissioners also don’t have to look very far to see how contentious a political issue rental registration can become. The city of Manhattan in recent years passed a rental registration program, then a new slate of commissioners got elected. One of the first items repealed by the new commission was the rental registration program.
In Lawrence, it is difficult to think of a group that can be more politically influential than landlords and real estate interests, if they want to be.
• Some people sit on the Massachusetts Street sidewalks with a guitar. I think I may sit out there with a portable welder and an acetylene torch. There may be some business to be had.
City commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will consider adding new regulations cracking down on umbrellas attached to sidewalk dining areas in downtown.
Many restaurants in downtown have begun connecting large umbrellas to their sidewalk dining railings. The city has become concerned that the umbrellas often overhang the portion of the sidewalk still used by pedestrians. Many times the umbrellas hang so low that people run the risk hitting them with their heads. The city has received a few complaints from members of the public, and City Commissioner Aron Cromwell — who, not coincidentally, is the tallest city commissioner in recent memory — has mentioned it.
City staff members are recommending a new regulation that would require the lowest point of all umbrellas to be at least 80 inches above the sidewalk.
As I mentioned earlier, many of the umbrellas are mounted in special holders that are welded to the wrought iron railings of the sidewalk dining area. I really don’t know how much modification will be needed to those expensive railings. I’m mainly just looking for an excuse to sit with a lit acetylene torch next to some of the less talented guitar players in downtown.
• While they’re at it, city commissioners also are being asked to tackle the growing issue of sandwich boards and other signs that are showing up on city sidewalks.
During a recent trip down Massachusetts Street, the city found 35 such signs out on the sidewalks. Staff members are proposing a simple regulation that would prohibit any sandwich board that is larger than 32 inches wide or 48 inches tall.
The regulations also would limit businesses to one sandwich board per entrance. The city also is proposing that the signs be within 12 inches of the building, and that at least six feet of passable sidewalk be maintained.
A bigger issue may be that city staff is proposing that, once these regulations are passed, the city get more strict in enforcing the sign code downtown and at other businesses. For example, there are several businesses downtown that attach banners to their sidewalk railings advertising drink specials and such. Those generally aren’t allowed. The same goes for businesses that tie large bunches of balloons onto the railings and such.
Commissioners will discuss the proposed sign regulations at their Tuesday evening meeting.
But fear not, business owners, the new regulations don’t say anything about acetylene torches. Call me, and I’ll sit in front of your business for awhile. After all, what says red hot deals better than a lit acetylene torch?
Former Pachamamas building to become event gallery; downtown landlords looking at solar project for Mass. Street rooftops; park near 19th and Haskell set to honor firefighters, former Chief McSwain
• Let me just start with this: If I hit a golf ball into your wedding party, I’m sorry. But I hope you’ll let me play through. (I also hope you’re distracted enough that I’ll be able to steal a piece of cake.)
A wedding party along a beautiful Lawrence golf course is a service the country clubs in town have been offering forever and a day. But soon there will be another player in that market.
Longtime Lawrence financial planner Wayne McDaniel has finalized a deal to purchase the former Pachamamas restaurant building at 2161 Quail Creek Drive.
If you remember, before Pachamamas moved to its current downtown location on New Hampshire Street several years ago, it got started in a unique building behind the Hy-Vee at Clinton Parkway and Kasold.
The building backs up to part of the Alvamar Golf Course. (I think it backs up to the public course, but I get confused because with my swing I sometimes inadvertently play both courses in the same round.)
McDaniel plans to convert the building into Arterra Event Gallery. McDaniel said the business will host weddings, receptions, corporate events and anything else of that nature.
Work is starting now to remodel the inside to make it a bit more of a wide open space. Once that is completed, McDaniel said he expects the venue will be able to accommodate events of about 250 people.
McDaniel — who will continue to operate his McDaniel Knutson Financial Partners business — has hired a manager to run the day-to-day operations of the event gallery. He expects the facility will start hosting events in March.
McDaniel said the building, which has been empty for at least six years, has long intrigued him.
“I have always loved architecture and I have looked at that building for three or four years,” McDaniel said. “I would tell myself that I love that building, but I wish I could figure out some way to use it.”
McDaniel said upon some reflection he thought an event business would do well because the location is easy to get to, it has its own parking, and the building has a “rustic elegance” to it that should create a good ambiance for a variety of events.
I can only think of one potential downside to the location: It may cause my wife to start caddying my golf games. If she thinks there is a chance for cake, she’ll be there.
• An interesting place to be in future months may be atop the roof of Sunflower Bike Shop or Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence. Both buildings are owned by groups led by longtime downtown landlords David and Susan Millstein.
The couple is working on an idea to put a large number of solar panels on their two buildings. Plans have been filed at City Hall for the Sunflower Bike and Outdoor Shop building, 804 Massachusetts St., and Susan confirmed to me that the Liberty Hall building also may be in the works.
According to the plans at City Hall, the Sunflower building could house about 60 solar panels on the roof. The only thing I know about electricity is that I’m not going to touch the red wire again, but I think that is a fairly sizable solar project.
Susan Millstein said David had more of the details and that the plans were still a bit in flux. But I hope to hear from him, and will pass along more details when I get them.
But it could be an interesting project for downtown. With the new hydroelectric power plant on the northern edge of downtown on the Kansas River, the area may have the makings to start marketing itself as a green energy district. (I’m not sure what a green energy district is, but it sure sounds like something you would market in today’s age.)
I’ve long thought the roofs of downtown buildings are destined to get more attention. I’ve thought it would be as rooftop dining areas, but perhaps it will be as solar panel fields. Or maybe they can be both. I could get a tan while I sip my cocktail.
• Town Talk will take a couple of days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and will return on Monday. But while we’re in the Thanksgiving mood, here is a brief item about how the city is getting closer to approving a project that would thank a group of public servants: firefighters.
Leaders with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department are set to forward a recommendation to city commissioners to use the park at 19th and Haskell to remember area firefighters.
The park currently doesn’t have a name, but rather is just a bit of an open field with some playground equipment and a basketball goal.
But the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is now recommending it be named Firefighters Remembrance Park. The idea came from Rachel McSwain, the widow of longtime Lawrence fire chief Jim McSwain.
The park is adjacent to the city’s firefighting training facility. Rachel McSwain said current Lawrence fire chief Mark Bradford had mentioned the idea to her at Chief McSwain’s funeral in 2008.
The plan is the park would have a plaque recognizing McSwain and his contributions to the city after serving 27 years as the city’s fire chief.
But in addition, other people will be allowed to make donations to the parks department to sponsor benches, trees or other park amenities in memory or recognition of firefighters. Each donation likely would come with its own plaque naming the firefighters being honored.
Parks leaders are finalizing some of those types of details and then plan to forward the recommendation for final approval by city commissioners.
Originally Rachel McSwain and her family had suggested naming the park after Chief McSwain. Parks and Recreation officials, however, pitched this broader idea to the family. When the city’s parks board recently gave its recommendation, a tearful McSwain said she was “thrilled” with the idea.
“All of the McSwain family has been very supportive of the idea,” Rachel said. “It is going to be great.”
Here’s hoping you all have a great and safe Thanksgiving, and that you get to thank everyone who is important to you.
City asked to provide monthly funding for arts coordinator; new report recommends water/sewer bill increases; city set to approve longevity bonuses
News and notes from around town:
• You might notice that Town Talk looks a bit different today. (Why is there a slightly shaven man staring at you, for instance?) Well, that’s progress folks. We’re switching this column and others over to our blogging platform. Hopefully, it will provide you an easier way to click on Town Talk and catch up on the posts that you may have missed. It also will provide us a better platform to build some new gizmos and gadgets in the future.
But all of this is a work in progress, so I hope you’ll bear with us. Case in point: On this page currently you’ll see some really old Town Talks. That’s a glitchy thing. (Sorry to get so technical on you.) Soon enough, those old Town Talks will be replaced by newer Town Talks, and then you’ll be able to click on one page and scroll from top to bottom and see the newest Town Talk and ones from the past several days. In the meantime, take advantage of our free time machine and catch up on what was going on back in 2010.
Case in point No. 2 in the glitchy category: A few hundred of you have signed up to have Town Talk delivered to your inbox each weekday. For the time being, those daily e-mails will be replaced by a couple of e-mails per week reminding you that you can find all the Town Talks on this page. We hope to get the daily e-mail feature back up and running in the future. Another option for those who are interested is to friend me on Facebook. I plan to be more faithful in posting a daily link to Town Talk on that page each day at noon.
• In honor of the Mona Lisa-like portrait that now adorns this page (wait a minute, that might not be as flattering a description as I had hoped), let’s talk a little art.
City commissioners at their meeting tonight will be asked to spend a few thousand dollars on a couple of art projects. Here’s a look: — The Lawrence Arts Center is asking the city to come up with $300 per month to help fund a part-time coordinator for the Final Fridays arts events that takes place the last Friday of each month in downtown. The city’s Cultural Arts Commission has been providing $300 a month for the coordinator position for the last couple of years, using some essentially leftover funding in its budget. But that pot of money has dried up, and now city commissioners are being asked to come up with the $300 out of the city’s general till. Susan Tate, executive director of the Lawrence Arts Center, told me it is “absolutely vital” to have a coordinator for the monthly events. That’s because many of the art showings for the events happen at non-traditional gallery spaces, such as coffee shops, retail stores, or vacant buildings. Connecting artists with those spaces takes, well, coordination.
The Lawrence Arts Center and Downtown Lawrence Inc. already each provide $300 per month for the coordinator position. That funding arrangement will continue, Tate said.
— The second project is a more speculative venture, but one that arts leaders think could produce a big bang. The city is being asked to provide $2,000 in funding for a grant writer to prepare an application to the National Endowment of the Arts.
The Lawrence Arts Center is hoping to win up to $200,000 in funding to start a program that would create a new digital media education program. The project would bring in as an artist-in-residence R. Luke DuBois, a notable New York-based artist who specializes in new media.
The program also would reach out to East Lawrence’s New York Elementary School to provide new media education for students.
The end result, arts leaders hope, is an explosion of creativity in the world of new media. That could mean multiple short film projects, animation projects, computer-generated artistic projections, live music with digital effects, and all sorts of other things that would require me to break out high-tech words such as gizmos and doo-dads.
The project would culminate with a bulked up Free State Film and Music Festival. The Arts Center has hosted the Free State festival the last two years, but with more funding, leaders believe they could take it to a whole other level of national prestige.
Lawrence will face stiff competition for the NEA grant dollars. Tate said the city won’t learn whether it has received any funding until September.
• Perhaps there is a way the digital animators can make your yard look green through the heat of the Kansas summer. Right now that takes lots of water, and a new report out of City Hall is recommending that you’ll need to pay more for that water in the future.
This report is new — as in just a few hours old — so I haven’t fully digested the nearly 80-page report yet. But it appears the report holds strong to the city staff’s previous recommendation that water and sewer rates need to go up in order to provide the type of service residents have come to expect.
If you remember, city commissioners during their budget deliberations this summer took the unusual step of deferring action on the city’s water and sewer rates for 2013. Staff members had recommended rate increases of between 4 percent to 6 percent for most customers.
This new report is recommending what looks to be a 28.6 percent rate increase phased in over the next five years for the average water user — which the city considers to be a household that uses about 4,000 gallons of water per month.
In other words, the typical water and sewer bill is estimated to be $47.64 per month currently. In 2017, that typical bill would be $61.30 per month.
The extra revenue would help fund many maintenance projects, but most notably it also would allow the city to build the long-talked about multi-million dollar sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River by 2018. I suspect that will be a major point of discussion. That project easily could cost $70 million, and I’m not sure city commissioners are convinced the city’s population is growing fast enough to justify the expense.
But delaying the project is risky business because if the city’s population growth does pick back up, the city will need several years to complete the project. City planners want to avoid a situation of having a shortage of sewage treatment capacity to meet growth needs.
As I said, there is a lot of information in the report, and several additional rate scenarios. Keep an eye on this space for future updates.
• One last City Hall item before commissioners meet tonight: City commissioners are expected to approve about $425,000 worth of year-end bonuses for city employees.
As has become the practice, the city is set to provide a year-end bonus to employees who have at least five years of service with the city. City leaders don’t like it when the program is referred to as a bonus, but it largely meets the definition because the payment is a one-time event, and whether the payment is made is entirely up to the discretion of the City Commission. The city however has made the annual payment every year since at least 1997, so many city employees have come to count on the year-end payment.
City officials call the program its longevity payment program. It pays all employees with at least five years of service with the city $4 for every month they have served with the city, or $48 for each year of service. This year, a record 599 employees qualify for the program. That tops last year’s record of 583 employees. The city’s workforce has shrunk over the last few years, but I believe its turnover rate also has declined. That means there are more longtime employees at the city.
The city is set to pay $424,380 as part of the program this year, which represents about a 3 percent increase from what was paid a year ago.
In past years, tight budgets have caused city commissioners to debate about whether to make the year end payments. But the city’s budget outlook has improved some in 2012, and I’ve heard no concerns from commissioners about the year-end program. Commissioners are scheduled to approve the payments as part of their consent agenda at their 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight.
Industrial sites to get hearings; foreclosures up in Douglas County; homeless shelter releases statistics
News and notes from around town:
• A pair of proposals to add more industrial ground northwest of Lawrence soon will have their first public hearings. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on Oct. 25 will hear a request to rezone 120 acres at East 700 and North 1800 roads from agricultural to light industrial. As previously reported, the 120 acres is the proposed site for a $21 million warehouse for Berry Plastics.
On Oct. 27, the planning commission will consider annexation and rezoning requests for 51 acres at North 1800 and East 1000 roads. The property owners are seeking to have the site rezoned from agricultural to general industrial. This property once was up for consideration as a site for the Berry warehouse but was not chosen. The development group — Venture Properties — however, said it wants to continue with the rezoning so it will be available to other potential users in the future.
Both meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. at Lawrence City Hall.
• According to the Douglas County Clerk’s office, today — Oct. 18 — is the last chance to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election. Registration can be done online, here. Advance voting already has begun.
• A new report from the Douglas County Appraiser’s office shows home foreclosures in Douglas County are up significantly in 2010. Through the end of August, the number of foreclosure sales conducted in the county was 164. That’s up from 80 during the same time period in 2009.
• The Lawrence Memorial Hospital board of trustees will be adding a new face. Jane Blocher, the executive director of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross, is expected to be appointed to the board by city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday. Also at their Tuesday meeting, commissioners are expected to appoint Thomas Christie to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
• New statistics are out for the Lawrence Community Shelter. In a report to city commissioners, shelter leaders report that from March through August law enforcement officers were called to the downtown shelter 34 times, and emergency response crews were called 14 times. Other statistics in the report include: 22 guests obtained jobs during the time period; 28 guests obtained housing; 274 individuals used the shelter’s day services; 362 individuals used its night services.
• Also from the shelter, new information about its fund-raising efforts. A J-W article on Friday reported that a new $540,000 matching grant put the shelter more than halfway toward its $3 million goal. Shelter leaders since have done some more figuring and are announcing that the grant now has fund-raising efforts two-thirds of the way complete.
• Yes, that is pink you are seeing Lawrence firefighters wearing. Through Saturday, members of the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical department will be wearing bright pink t-shirts as part of a breast cancer awareness campaign. The department also will be selling the shirts, with proceeds to go towards fighting breast cancer. For more information, call Fire Station No. 3, 832-7630.
• The city of Lawrence has announced plans for an electronic recycling event. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Free State High parking lot, 4700 Overland Drive. The event is for small electronic devices, often which have lead, mercury or other material that is not recommended for landfills. The event is largely free, although fees will be charged to accept computer monitors and televisions. The fee for monitors is $10, and for television $15.
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Another Lawrence institution is working to make the latest Top 20 poll, and this one doesn’t have anything to do with KU athletics.
The Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market is battling to be named one of the 20 best farmers' markets in the country by the American Farmland Trust.
The nonprofit organization is running an online poll asking people to vote for their favorite farmers' market. Thus far, Lawrence is on the outside looking in.
As of Thursday morning, the Lawrence market had 73 votes, which left it 18 votes behind 20th ranked Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market in Santa Barbara, Calif. Lawrence’s market is a full 1,024 votes behind the No. 1 ranked Davis Farmers Market in Davis, Calif.
People can vote online at www.farmland.org/vote.
Several other Kansas markets also are part of the competition. Thus far, the farmers' market in Emporia is ranked No. 16 in the medium-market category. Lawrence is competing in the large-market category because it has more than 55 vendors on a regular basis.
Voting will last for about another week, according to a press release from the group.
There soon may be new life for the former Arensberg Shoes building in downtown Lawrence.
Lawrence orthodontist Dan Ranjbar has bought the building and filed new plans with the city that he hopes will make the large Art Deco landmark at 825 Mass. more attractive to retailers.
“I’m definitely not interested in putting a restaurant in there,” said Ranjbar. “I want retail, boutique or spa type businesses. That’s what we’re going to see there.”
To do it, though, he’s going to have to rearrange some space. He’s filed plans with City Hall that would allow the ground floor of the building to be split into two retail spaces. The plan also would allow for two office spaces on the top floor, and a retail space in the basement.
“When you go to cities like Boston, their basements are fully utilized, but they aren’t here in downtown,” Ranjbar said. “Our plan is to create a prominent entryway to the basement and also one to the top level of the building.”
The changes are necessary, in part, because most of the interest in the building as it is currently configured has been from potential restaurants. Ranjbar — who is a part owner in the Teller’s building — said he’s firmly on the side of people who believe downtown has enough restaurants.
“I think people want to shop and eat when they come to downtown,” Ranjbar said. “We have enough places to eat. We need more places to shop. I will sit on it as long as I can to get that.”
Ranjbar’s plans also don’t call for major changes to the overall look of the building, which was rebuilt in the 1930s to become the community’s Montgomery Ward building.
The major Art Deco themes of the building will remain, but Ranjbar wants to update the ground floor store front areas to include more glass tile and other features.
“It will be stunning when we get done there,” Ranjbar said. “I want people when they walk into that space to have a similar feeling as when they walk into the Teller’s building.”
Ranjbar — who hopes to have the renovations done by December — said he has begun to receive some interest from potential retail tenants.
“I’m getting a mixed bag on retail,” Ranjbar said. “I have to feel confident that the person I put in there will stay afloat.”
In other development news:
• Plans are still in the works for a new Dunkin’ Donuts store at Sixth and Michigan streets. Lawrence’s Dunkin’ Donuts owner Sonny Patel announced in November that he had plans to build a new 2,400 square foot store — complete with drive-thru — on the northwest corner of Sixth and Michigan where a medical supply store once operated. Patel recently said those plans are still alive, although they have taken longer than he had hoped. He said he hopes to submit the design — which will feature a new look for Dunkin’ Donuts — to the city in the next week or so. He hopes to begin construction in a couple of months, and to be open in about six months. The Dunkin’ Donuts at 521 W. 23rd St. will remain open even after the new store is built.
• Add The Granada, 1020 Mass, to the list of bars seeking a sidewalk drinking area, now that the city has loosened the rules for such applications. Building owner Doug Compton also has filed plans to remodel the building’s exterior entryway.
• Preliminary plans are under way to redevelop the Boardwalk Apartments, 510-544 Fireside Drive. Plans have long been under way to rebuild part of the complex that burned in a 2005 fire that killed three people. But in May, the owners of the property announced they were closing the entire complex because of safety concerns. Now, the property owners have filed a new preliminary plat for the property, which is one of the first steps in redeveloping the entire complex. Thus far, plans haven’t been filed on what specifically would be located on the property, but property owners have kept the multifamily zoning for the property.
There was a lot of talk about social service funding during last April’s Lawrence City Commission election. In particular, there was a lot of hand-wringing over potential city funding cuts to social service agencies, but several candidates said they would make it a goal to at least hold social service funding steady.
So, as the city prepares its 2010 budget, how are they doing?
So far, so good.
City Manager David Corliss’ recommended budget essentially keeps all social service and other outside agency funding steady at 2009 levels.
Here’s a look at all the different outside entities the city provides funding for, the amount they’re slated to receive in 2010, and how that compares with 2009 funding levels:
The following funding comes from city property taxes: • Douglas County Legal Aid: $40,000, no change. • Lawrence Humane Society: $256,320, no change. • Downtown Lawrence Inc: $42,500, no change. • Lawrence Chamber of Commerce: $185,500, no change. • Lawrence Douglas County Bioscience Authority: $200,000, no change. • Lawrence Douglas County Bioscience Incubator: $75,000, no change. • Ballard Community Center: $7,500, no change. • Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence: $143,722, no change. • Douglas County CASA: $20,000, no change. • TFI Family Services: $6,750, no change. • Ecumenical Minister’s Fellowship: $4,000, no change. • Health Care Access pharmacy program: $26,000, no change. • Bert Nash Homeless Outreach Team: $164,000, no change. • Lawrence Community Shelter: $57,000, up from $27,000. The shelter in 2010 will begin receiving some city funding that previously went to The Salvation Army since The Salvation Army no longer operates a homeless shelter. • Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority: $0, down from $13,192. • The Salvation Army: $24,000, down from $40,000. • Housing & Credit Counseling: $17,100, no change. • Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging: $7,400, no change. • Lawrence Arts Center: $90,000, no change. • The Shelter Inc: $32,000, no change. • Van Go Mobile Arts: $35,000, no change. • Warm Hearts: $6,000, no change. • Women’s Transitional Care Service: $6,000, no change.
The following funding comes from the city’s guest tax, which is charged to customers at Lawrence hotels and motels: • Destination Management/Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau: $685,560, up from $684,300. • Guest tax reserve fund: $154,500, no change. This fund is often used to pay the city’s share of various special events in the community. • Sister Cities Advisory Board: $7,500, no change.
The following funding comes from the city’s share of the state liquor tax: • Lawrence Arts Center Scholarships: $25,000, no change. • Lawrence Arts Commission: $25,000, no change. • Ballard Community Center: $4,500, no change. • Big Brothers/Big Sisters: $27,000, no change. • Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence: $100,000, no change. • DCCCA: $41,000, no change. • First Step House: $29,150, no change. • Headquarters Inc.: $22,500, no change. • Lawrence Community Shelter: $27,000, no change. • Lawrence Police Department: $250,000, no change. The money is used to help fund school resource officers. • Van Go Mobile Arts Inc.: $44,000, no change. • Women’s Transitional Care Services: $17,000, no change.
City Commissioner Aron Cromwell served on a city committee that came up with the recommended funding levels. He believes his fellow city commissioners will leave the recommendations largely unchanged.
“I think the will of the commission is to protect these vulnerable agencies at a time when they really need it,” Cromwell said. “And the good thing is that it wasn’t that hard to do because it is not an enormous part of the city budget.”
All told, the city is slated to provided $2,906,002 to outside agencies in 2010, out of a total budget of $157,707,300.
When it comes to social service funding, one other interesting promise was made during the campaign. Cromwell promised to donate his City Commission salary to social service agencies. He said he plans to follow through on that, but hasn’t yet selected all the agencies that he’ll provide funding to.
“I plan to spread it around,” said Cromwell, who said he anticipates making donations to the Lawrence Humane Society, the Lawrence Community Shelter and several other local groups.
Commissioners make $9,000 per year, before taxes.
A sector of Lawrence that hasn’t gotten much love lately is getting a little these days from the national media.
An online report by MSNBC mentions Lawrence as one of 33 metro areas across the country where there are early signs of a housing rebound.
The report sites an Adversity Index put together by MSNBC and Moody’s Economy.com. The index shows that “housing starts” are up 253 percent from April 2008.
Based on a review of recently released building permit data by the city, Lawrence housing starts definitely are up — but only if you count new apartment construction. If you don’t count apartment construction, the numbers are actually down for the year.
We don’t have a fancy title like the Adversity Index, but here’s what a review of building permit data through May says about Lawrence construction:
- 27 single family permits have been issued through May 2009. That’s down from 34 during the same period of 2008.
- Four duplex permits have been issued in 2009, up from one in 2008.
- Permits for 172 apartment units have been issued in 2009, up from seven in 2008.
In case you’re wondering, other towns that seemed to fare well in the Adversity Index were:
- Vallejo, Calif.
- Longview, Texas
- Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Kokomo, Ind.
- Clarksville, which is in both Tennessee and Kentucky.
Today will mark a changing of the guard in one of the major behind-the-scenes departments at Lawrence City Hall.
Friday is the last day of service for Frank Reeb, the city’s clerk and director of administrative services. As previously reported, Reeb, who has been with the city for about eight years, is leaving to become the director of human resources for the Kansas Athletic Department.
In a sign of the fiscal times at City Hall, City Manager David Corliss is not seeking to immediately fill the position. Instead, Jonathan Douglass, an assistant to the city manager, will serve as interim city clerk. Diane Stoddard, an assistant city manager, will oversee the human relations division. Cynthia Boecker, another assistant city manager, will oversee the risk management division.
Corliss said he’s not yet set a timeline to begin recruiting for a permanent replacement, but instead will monitor the city’s finances to determine when it would be appropriate to begin the process.
Reeb oversaw a variety of city functions. He was responsible for keeping City Commission meeting minutes, issuing various licenses and permits, conducting employee recruiting and employee policy matters, and managing the city’s health insurance program.
Hosting a keg party may soon become a much dicier proposition in Lawrence.
Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting tonight will consider beefing up a city ordinance that would allow local law enforcement to more easily charge hosts of keg parties with illegally serving underage drinkers.
Under current state law, to charge the host of a party with illegally serving a minor, local law enforcement must prove that the minor was an invited guest of the host. Proving that can be tricky.
A new ordinance, though, might help. City commissioners are being told they have the legal authority to create a local social hosting law that is tougher than the statewide law. Members of the city’s legal services staff have crafted an ordinance that would require the host to prove that any minor at the party was not an invited guest. In other words, the host would need to show some evidence that the minor was trespassing.
The ordinance also would require the host to take reasonable steps — such as checking a picture ID — if there’s a suspicion that a minor is trying to drink at a party.
The change in law has been lobbied for by the New Tradition Coalition, a local group that is working to reduce underage drinking in the community.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall.
Fire eaters, street dances and open-air grills. It must be summer in downtown Lawrence.
Planning is well under way for at least a trio of events designed to bring people and their wallets to downtown Lawrence this summer. Here’s a look:
• Organizers of the Lawrence Busker Festival announced recently that they’ll be bringing the street performance festival back to downtown for a second year.
The event is set for Aug. 21 to Aug. 23, and organizer Richard Renner hopes to have more than 20 performers to entertain crowds throughout the downtown area.
Renner, the owner of a local vaudeville entertainment company, estimates that last year’s inaugural event drew 5,000 to 8,000 people downtown. He said several merchants reported increased sales of 10 to 30 percent, compared with the same weekend a year earlier.
“I think every e-mail or letter we received asked us to please do it again,” Renner said.
This year the event will add a children’s stage in front of the Lawrence Public Library, in addition to having performers up and down Massachusetts Street.
The event also is expected to attract Mama Lou, who bills herself as the “American Strong Woman,” ripping phone books in half and pounding nails into wood with her fists. Also on tap will be fire eaters, fire jugglers, sword swallowers, puppeteers, magicians and musicians, Renner said.
• Up for approval at Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting is a request to close a downtown street for a 20th anniversary party for the Sandbar.
The Sandbar, 17 E. Eighth St., wants to close Eighth Street from Massachusetts Street to New Hampshire Street from 5 p.m. Aug. 1 to 1 a.m. Aug. 2. The Saturday night event would feature a street dance, street vendors and outdoor drinking.
City staff members are recommending approval of the event. City commissioners will consider the issue at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.
• An outdoor event at the Eldridge Hotel also will be up for consideration by the City Commission on Tuesday. The Eldridge is seeking a permit to have an outdoor band on July 3 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The event would be on the vacant lot immediately south of the hotel.
The concert, which also would feature outdoor food sales, would be a kickoff event for the Tour of Lawrence, a professional bicycle race that will be in Lawrence July 3-5. The Friday event would be going on at the same time as the street sprint portion of the race. The street sprint will take place on parts of Seventh Street near the Eldridge Hotel.
The Eldridge event is in addition to a host of downtown activities planned for July 4. Those include a food festival at 3 p.m. in Watson Park that will include offerings from 16 locally owned restaurants, and a fireworks show over the Kansas River that will begin about 9 p.m.
Several lingering issues will be back up for discussion at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission this week. Here’s a look:
• Rural Lecompton resort: Plans by area developers to convert about 60 acres into a corporate retreat and conference center will be considered. The Planning Commission will consider a request to rezone 58.99 acres just northeast of the intersection of North 1800 Road and East 700 Road. The plan has been up for approval several times but has been deferred on multiple occasions because planning staff members have said it was inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. A revision to the comprehensive plan is being prepared that would allow for a corporate retreat at the site.
The property is close enough to Lecompton that the Lecompton Planning Commission also has heard the issue. The Lecompton Planning Commission has recommended denial of the rezoning request because it is afraid the rezoning will open the area up to a wide range of uses in the future. The Lecompton Planning Commission said if conditions could be placed on the zoning to ensure that it couldn’t be used for nonretreat type uses, that it likely would be in favor of the project.
The development group has said the project would include a conference center, reception area, restaurant, bar, a swimming pool, commercial riding stable and hunting and shooting areas. Lodging would be provided in cabins clustered throughout the area.
Planning commissioners will discuss the request as part of their meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. County commissioners ultimately will be responsible for approving the rezoning.
• Also tonight, planning commissioners will consider new regulations to protect environmentally sensitive lands in the county. The regulations generally require developments to go through a special site plan process if they have any floodways, floodplains, streams, or wetlands on their property. Developers also may have to go through a special permit process if there are more than 1,000 square feet of woodlands or 1,000 square feet of prairie remnants on the site. City commissioners previously had considered the regulations, but sent them back to the Planning Commission over concerns that the new regulations were not specific enough. City and county commissioners ultimately will have to approve the regulations before they become final.
• At their 6:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday at City Hall, planning commissioners will consider an issue related to a proposed annexation of the former Farmland Industries site east of Lawrence.
The Planning Commission is being asked to find that the annexation of the 448 acres of property is compatible with the city and county’s long-range plans.
The Douglas County Commission on July 13 will consider adopting a resolution allowing the annexation to move forward. The City Commission is requesting the annexation because it wants to see the property redeveloped into a business park.
Outdoor movies are set to return to downtown Lawrence.
City commissioners at their meeting tonight are expected to give approval to the third annual Downtown Lawrence Film Festival.
Downtown Lawrence Inc. again plans to use a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets to show classic films on the wall of the downtown parking garage.
This year, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn will take center stage.
Here’s a look at the proposed schedule: • June 11: Woman of the Year • June 25: Without Love • July 9: State of the Union • July 23: Adam’s Rib • Aug. 13: Pat & Mike • Aug. 27: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Each evening will begin with live music, free popcorn and prize drawings at 8 p.m. The movies will start at 9:15 p.m.
In other downtown news, if you’re looking for a slightly different type of outdoor activity this summer, The Sandbar may soon be able to accommodate.
The Sandbar, 17 E. Eighth St., is set to receive approval at tonight’s commission meeting for a new outdoor sidewalk drinking area.
The downtown bar is seeking to become the latest to take advantage of new city regulations that allow some downtown bars to create sidewalk seating areas to serve customers.
Previously, only restaurants were able to have sidewalk seating areas downtown. But bar owners convinced commissioners that the rules needed to be changed following the city’s implementation of a citywide smoking ban.
Commissioners agreed to allow bars to have sidewalk seating areas, if the business had no other feasible option for providing an outdoor seating area.
Linwood is not Hollywood, but the small Leavenworth County town of about 400 people is now home to a pair of international TV personalities.
The Historic Harris House — a 15-room, 1883 mansion west of Linwood — recently was purchased by the co-founders of GOD TV, an international Christian television network that is available across the U.S. on the DIRECTV satellite system.
Rory and Wendy Stephen — who in 1995 started the Christian television network in Britain — purchased the home and its 11 acres in mid-April, according to records at the Leavenworth County Register of Deeds office.
But don’t expect Linwood to become the new headquarters of GOD TV. Even though the historic house has previously been used to host conferences and special events, an executive for the network said there are no plans for the house to be used as part of GOD TV’s operations.
Instead, the couple — who are best known by their on-air names of Rory and Wendy Alec — purchased the home to serve as one of their private residences, said Jeffrey Levinson, an executive for the network’s U.S. operations.
“The attraction of this particular property to the Alecs is that it has stunning grounds and will make a wonderful family home,” Levinson said via e-mail.
The home is a showpiece in Linwood. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by former U.S. Senator William A. Harris, who during the late 1800s was active in the area as a buyer of land for the Union Pacific Railroad.
“It just has beautiful architecture inside and out,” said Steven Hertzog, who along with his wife sold the home after moving their photography and marketing business to Lawrence.
Levinson said he wasn’t sure how often the couple — who according to their Web site, have two children — will be at the property.
GOD TV is based in Jerusalem, and has its U.S. offices in Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla. The network has international offices in South Africa, Kenya, India, China, and Israel, according to its Web site.
The couple started the network in 1995, after meeting in Britain. According to the Web site, Rory — who serves as CEO of the network — is a native of South Africa, while Wendy — the network's director of television — was born in England.
The duo regularly host several events on GOD TV, such as the Global Day of Prayer celebration later this month, and a program called Apocalypse & The End of Times.
After two days of budget hearings, it appears that the folks who protect and serve are pretty well protected in the city’s 2010 budget deliberations.
City commissioners were told that the 2010 budget includes expenses for new police officers, and none of the commissioners balked at the idea.
The city actually is looking for recruits to fill six new positions in the department currently. When those six positions are filled, the department will be up to 142 sworn officers, which is the level that Police Chief Ron Olin considers fully staffed.
That would be a significant achievement because Olin said over the last 20 years the department has only been at a fully staffed level for a handful of days.
The numbers also represent a turnaround. Not long ago, the police department was down 13 officer positions. But the previous city commission made it a priority to keep hiring police officers even during tight budget times.
“We have not put a hiring chill or freeze on the Police Department, and I think that has been appropriate,” City Manager David Corliss said.
The numbers could grow even more. This City Commission already has given the department approval to apply for federal stimulus money that would allow the department to hire four more police officers, in addition to the six that are already being sought.
The federal money would cover 100 percent of the salary and fringe benefit costs of the new officers for three years. But the grant also would obligate the city to maintain that level of police staffing for at least a year after the grant expires. The four new officers would add about $230,000 in expenses to the city’s budget.
Even with the potential of 10 new officers, Olin still believes the city may be about eight to 12 officers short of what national standards suggest for a city of Lawrence’s size. But Olin said he does believe citizens will notice improved service levels with the new officers.
He said the larger numbers should give police officers more time to interact with the public, rather than going from one 911 call to another.
“When you are going only from 911 call to 911 call, you don’t see the softer side of policing,” Olin said.
In response to a question by Commissioner Aron Cromwell, Olin also said he thought the public would notice a difference in downtown Lawrence.
“I think we saw a direct impact on people’s perception of safety in downtown with the absence of those 13 police officers for an extended period,” Olin said.
• Commissioners also were told that the police department likely won’t suffer major problems from the much reported shortage of ammunition.
As the national media has reported lately, the price of ammunition has increased significantly. But thus far in 2009, the Lawrence Police Department is on track to spend less in ammunition than it did in 2008.
No, the department hasn’t adopted a Barney Fife policy — carry only one bullet in your pocket. Instead, Olin said the department saw the shortage coming and took action.
“When the news media talks about people who have been stockpiling, that would be us,” Olin said.
We’ve all thought about how nice it would be to not get that water bill in the mail each month. Well, here’s a piece of news for you. City leaders would be happy to quit mailing it to you.
Instead, they want to e-mail it to you each month.
Yeah, I know, that’s not exactly what you had in mind. But the chances of the city deciding to stop charging you at all for your water, sewer and trash service are pretty remote.
But city commissioners on Wednesday said they may be willing to give you a bit of a break on your bill if you would agree to receive your bills via e-mail only. That, of course, could save the city a significant amount of money on mailing and postage costs each year.
Lawrence residents currently can sign up to receive their city utility bills via e-mail. But the city’s billing department reports that most people who are signing up for the service also want a bill mailed to them as well.
Commissioner Mike Dever, at a city budget study session, brought up the idea of creating an incentive program to get more people to sign up for e-mail only service.
“If we did it right, I think we might have 5,000 households in the city that would take advantage of a program like that,” Dever said. “I think it could save us some money.”
Mayor Rob Chestnut — who sees many bills in his job as a chief financial officer for a local company — said there are several companies that offer a $5 or $10 credit if you agree to receive 12 months of statements via e-mail only.
“Once you’ve gone through a year of it, I think most people would stick with the system,” Chestnut said. Commissioners directed staff members to look at how a program could be created, and what type of incentive would work for the city’s finances.
The city is projected to spend about $45,000 this year in printing of utility bills, and about $145,000 in postage for the bills. With an expected postage rate increase, the city expects to spend about $167,000 in postage for utility bills in 2010.