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Plans filed for commercial zoning south of the Wakarusa River
Surely I’m not alone in rummaging through the closet to find those stylish floral print shirts, knee-length shorts, black socks and flip-flops.
Yes, if nothing else, I’m day-dreaming of heading south.
Well, south as in south of the Wakarusa River, may be a direction to keep an eye on in future months. Plans have been filed at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office for a new commercial development south of the Wakarusa River.
Douglas County property owner Michael Flory has filed plans to rezone 29 acres of property at the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 59 and Leary Road (or North 1100, for those of you who don’t know the Learys) to commercial from agricultural.
For those of you still needing some help with the geography, North 1100 Road is about a mile south of the Wakarusa River. The road basically intersects with U.S. 59 at the point where the highway used to switch from four lanes down to two lanes.
Thus far, the development plans aren’t grand, but they are notable. Flory said he envisions the property developing in phases. The first phase would be a unique type of storage unit development. Flory said he has acquired plans to build storage units that look like typical suburban houses. The portion of the storage units visible from the highway and from North 1100 Road would look like the back of a home with a fenced-in yard. A second phase of the development would call for a neighborhood-oriented convenience store, Flory said. A third phase of the development would be left unplanned for future commercial development.
The plans are notable because they are one of the first signs that development speculation south of the Wakarusa River may be entering a new phase.
Lawrence city commissioners in the coming weeks again will revive discussions of starting construction of a $55 million sewage treatment plant just south of the river.
When that plant gets built, the city will have the ability to provide sewer service to large portions of ground south of the Wakarusa River. Add the fact that a new four-lane highway is running through the area — and the South Lawrence Trafficway just north of the river will be completed — and you’ve got an area that would appear ripe for development.
Flory told me he has owned this 29 acres of property for 10 years in anticipation of the sewage treatment plant being constructed. He’s grown tired of waiting. Flory is applying for the new rezoning through the Douglas County Commission rather than waiting for the property to eventually be annexed into the city limits. But if the county rezones the property to commercial use, then when the day comes that the property gets annexed into the city, it likely automatically would convert over to one of the city’s commercial zoning categories.
The rezoning request will need to win approval from both the Planning Commission and the Douglas County Commission. Assuming those approvals, Flory said he would like to get started on the storage unit development in the next year.
As for the bigger decision on the $55 million sewage treatment plant, I expect city commissioners to have a discussion on that in March. I believe this current city commission would like to make some decisions about the future of water and sewer rates before the new commission is sworn into office in early April.
But the sewage issue will be worth watching closely. (Aren’t you jealous of my job? “What did you do today, Chad? I kept an eye on the sewage situation.”) Even if this current group of city commissioners decides to move forward with the $55 million plant, there still will be plenty of time for the next batch of city commissioners to change course on the project.
The rate implications of the new plant — along with other improvements — are expected to cost the average Lawrence homeowner about $500 in extra water and sewer bills over the next five years. If the city doesn’t get the new plant built in time, though, the city likely would have to place limits on new construction in the future. I expect water and sewer rates will become an issue in the current City Commission campaign. In other words, our politics and our sewer are going to mix.
Now, I bet you are really jealous of my job. Soon, when I find what I’m looking for in my closet, you’ll be jealous of my wardrobe too.