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City to use eminent domain to take over dilapidated East Lawrence property; Just Food seeks $25,000 in CDBG funding to expand dairy, meat offerings


Well, Town Talk is playing catch-up today. As I previously reported, I was off on Friday to help park cars at the annual Lawrence Auto Swap Meet. And I was off on Monday to clean mud out of places that I didn’t know I had. So, that leaves us with several items of note on tonight’s Lawrence City Commission agenda to update you on. Here’s a look:

• The city is continuing to move down an unusual road in its efforts to see that a piece of East Lawrence property is cleaned up. The city is going through the process of using eminent domain to take over ownership of the property at 1106 Rhode Island St.

For those of you trying to picture the location, it is just east of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. Or perhaps some of you remember it as the property that for years had multiple old Packard automobiles stored in its overgrown backyard.

The property — owned by the Barland family, which once owned the city’s Packard dealership — has a house and a barn. The house hasn’t been lived in for years, and its condition has been deteriorating.

The city has taken code enforcement action against the Barlands, but the city finds itself in an odd situation. Usually, the big hammer in a code enforcement case of this nature is that ultimately the city can declare the property unsafe and order it to be demolished. But in this case, the property is of a historic nature. The house dates back to 1871, and was owned by one of the city’s more prominent Irish businessmen — Rhody Delahunty, who operated his successful dray wagon business from the site.

Such history makes it likely that the city’s Historic Resources Commission would balk at tearing down the structures. The city has asked the Barland family to come up with ideas to either refurbish/redevelop the property or sell it to someone who is willing to do so. The family hired an architect to come up with proposals, but it hasn’t committed to any of the ideas. It also hasn’t been willing to sell the property, although it has attracted interest from the Lawrence Preservation Alliance.

So, commissioners in February started the process to use eminent domain to acquire the property. At tonight’s meeting, commissioners are being asked to take the next step: authorizing staff members to file a petition with Douglas County District Court that would start the legal proceedings.

The way the process works is that the court will come up with a price that the city must pay for the property. The process can be stopped at any time, if the Barlands and the city come to an agreement on the future of the property.

As for what the city would do with this deteriorating piece of property, that’s not entirely clear. City officials have said their plan would be to accept proposals from parties interested in restoring the property. The most common ideas have been for the property to be restored as a residence, and the barn perhaps as an artist studio or some other type of work space.

We’ll see how the process goes. The city certainly uses eminent domain to purchase easements for roads and utility projects where it can agree on a price with a landowner. But in my 20 years of covering City Hall, this is the first time I remember eminent domain being used to purchase a rundown piece of property. It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a new trend because there’s certainly more than one rundown piece of property in the city.

• Here’s a case where eminent domain wasn’t needed. The city is beginning to purchase easements to run a major water line from the Kaw Water Treatment Plant, across the Kansas River and into North Lawrence.

On tonight’s agenda, the city commission is set to approve paying $80,600 for 25,530 square feet of property. The property is vacant commercial property at 1000 N. Third Street, which is just south of the I-70 Business Center. The property is owned by a trust controlled by Lawrence businessman Samih Staitieh.

The price for the property — it pencils out to $3.15 per square foot — was based on independent appraisals. More purchases for the water line project are expected. The multimillion-dollar project is designed to provide an additional main water line to North Lawrence.

• The recent election of City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer has created an extra piece of paper work for Lawrence City Hall. Commissioners tonight are being asked to approve a conflict of interest waiver that will allow Farmer’s employer to apply for Community Development Block Grant Funding.

Farmer is the CEO of Just Food, the not-for-profit food bank that serves the county. A city advisory board is recommending that Just Food be awarded $25,000 in CDBG funding to buy a refrigerated food truck. But in order for the organization to receive the funding, the city must send a form to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development disclosing the conflict of interest and why the money should be awarded to the agency.

The more interesting part is what the truck will allow Just Food to do. Farmer told me the truck will be used to go to grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores and other locations that often have to dispose of aging meat, dairy and produce.

Currently, Just Food doesn’t have a way to transport refrigerated material from the stores to its distribution center in East Lawrence. Consequently, Farmer estimates grocers and other are throwing away “thousands of dollars of food per week.” Most of the perishable items are pulled off the shelves several days before their expiration dates, which gives Just Food time to distribute it to needy families.

Farmer said the program is expected to significantly increase Just Food’s ability to provide milk, eggs, butter, meat and some produce to families.

“This is going to be a huge, huge deal for us,” Farmer said. “I haven’t seen butter and eggs down here in a long time.”

Farmer hopes to have the truck later this summer, but he said the timeline is dependent upon Washington, D.C.. Administrators with the CDBG program are watching to see if the sequestration delays or cuts the amount of funding available to the CDBG program.

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall.


Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 11 months ago

I hope Just Foods gets the truck.

So, in a city of so many obese people, thousands of dollars worth of food is being thrown away? That is obscene.

Where do supermarkets get their meat from?

Sunny Parker 4 years, 11 months ago

Look around in East Lawrence. There are a whole lot worse properties than the one on Rhode Island Street! The City could just buy the entire East Lawrence 6 block area and demolish all of them!

Something just isn't right here!

kernal 4 years, 11 months ago

What, or where, is the East Lawrence 6 block area that you're referring to?

jafs 4 years, 11 months ago

Because eminent domain was intended for public use, like highways, not so that the city could take the property and have somebody else restore it and live there.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 11 months ago

The multimillion-dollar project is designed to provided an additional main water line to North Lawrence.

---good. about time. glad to see this.
and note: a little edit thar.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 11 months ago

watching to see if the sequestration delays or cuts the amount of funding available to the CDBG program.

---worth noting: documented that sequestration was originally a whitehouse/obama idea. and republicans repeatedly tried to give obama and managers throughout the executiveauthority to move money around (so that, for example money for consultants, or unspent moneys could be moved to cover the cuts) but repeatedly obama said he'd veto those bills.

Apparently PresidentFester Sequester actually wants americans to feel sequestration pain. very sad.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 11 months ago

The more interesting part is what the truck will allow Just Food to do. Farmer told me the truck will be used to go to grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores and other locations that often have to dispose of aging meat, dairy and produce.

---indeed. this would be very big.

*Frankie8, by law, I think, stores have to move certain items off the shelf after a certain amount of time. some of this you can blame on our legal system, it's trying to protect consumers from food that would've otherwise gone bad.

*so, Just Food would have to get these parishables into the hands of low income households quickly. but for many it'd be welcome.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 11 months ago

That is true, but I think it is horrible that so much is going to waste. I don't want to see anyone get sick. I was told by someone who works at Walmart that they throw away so much, not just food, but clothes, cleaning supplies, etc. and they do this because they get money by declaring it a loss, and nothing by giving it away. Just one reason Walmart has lost my love.

Mike Hoffmann 4 years, 11 months ago

It isn't just Wal-Mart that does this. I was once an Assistant Manager for Walgreen's and every night I would have to throw away perfectly good food to ensure we got a credit for it. Giving it away, I was told, was not an option.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

Public interest can get twisted too. The parking garage downtown was supposed to be for public use...

akuna 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh my. I'm no grammarian, but I find the use of "it" to refer to "the family" in the fifth paragraph of the first bullet point to be astonishing. The pronoun should be "they."

Frank A Janzen 4 years, 11 months ago

Dillon's throws out whole baked chickens daily at night because they haven't sold, and by law they cannot give them away due to legal liability issues. I don't see how Just Foods could get around that law.

Charlie Bryan 4 years, 11 months ago

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. The full text of the law can be downloaded at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ210/pdf/PLAW-104publ210.pdf.

somebodynew 4 years, 11 months ago

I don't mind the eminent domain in this case. The family has totaled ignored any and all attempts to get anything done with that place. Destruction by neglect can't be allowed and when you throw in the "Historic" part of it, in this town that ends all the rational conversation. Since the family is ignoring all attempts to either fix or sell the place, I am happy to see the City move forward. (I still wish that whole vacant area would be turned into a parking lot, but I know that isn't happening. So do something productive with it.)

verity 4 years, 11 months ago

". . . and when you throw in the "Historic" part of it, in this town that ends all the rational conversation."

That would be funny if it weren't so true. Despite being a pinko liberal socialist progressive, I don't think absolutely everything is worth saving and that property would take way more money to salvage and renovate than it will ever be close to being worth.

But I no longer have a dog in that fight, so I'll gladly leave it to you who live there.

Ricky_Vaughn 4 years, 11 months ago

Eminent Domain is plain unconstitutional in my book.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 11 months ago

Sorry Ricky but it is Constitutional, the 5th amendment in fact. I find it amazing all that they saw fit to include in this. It is open to interpatation by the Supreme Court and they

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Remember Kelo v. New London and how the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New London? Same thing.

You can read all about it here.


jafs 4 years, 11 months ago


But the Kelo decision was wrong. The use proposed for that property wasn't "public use" by any stretch of the imagination - it was a private company planning to locate on the property.

And, interestingly/disturbingly, after the property was torn down, the proposed development never even happened.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 11 months ago

I also think the decision was wrong, as did Justice O'Connor who made the dissenting opinion. But, in the end the Supreme Court decided in favor of the state. I find it interesting that she said that it would create a reverse Robin Hood, that it would make taking from the poor to give to the rich the norm not the exception.

deec 4 years, 11 months ago

It was also wrong when Wyco stole people's homes for the race track

budwhysir 4 years, 11 months ago

when I was a kid we didn't have eminent domain, and we liked it.. and when I was a kid coke a cola was a nickel but we had to work for a nickel so we had to work and we liked it... but then taxes where higher and coke a cola cost a dime and tax was a nickel so we had to work an extra hour for a coke and a smile, but we did it cause we liked it.

now coke a cola is a dollar and taxes are even higher so we drink water cause its free, and we like it when it rains we just collect our rain water and like it....and when it snows we may be cold but we like it cause it doesn't cost anything to be cold and we can be cold all day and no one will say here have a coke a cola cause they don't have a dollar and they give us water and we like it yeah we like it...

Brian Barland 4 years, 11 months ago

Eminent Domain - taking for the public good. Such is not the case on this property. It is being used as a strong handed method to do something with private property. Everybody wants to say what to do with a property that is not their's or know all the complicating factors. Starts with a possibly illegal search under Kansas law last year and continues. Not meeting the City's timeline is the sin here. Somebody else have any bright ideas what to do with the property ? bring on the funding ! FOR SALE BY OWNER.

windjammer 4 years, 11 months ago

Since you have not been keeping the property up to codes why don't you donate it to our fine city? We have looked at that dump for too many years long before you became the owner.

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