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Plans filed to build new neighborhood north of Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence


Living next to a recreation center would be great. I could exercise by osmosis. I don’t know if that is what is driving it, but plans for a major new housing development north of Rock Chalk Park have been filed.

Lawrence businessman Michael Garber has filed plans to build an approximately 230-home single-family neighborhood just north of Rock Chalk Park, which houses the city’s Sports Pavilion recreation center and the University of Kansas’ track and field, softball, soccer and tennis facilities.

Currently, most of the property Garber is seeking to develop is not in the Lawrence city limits. He’s filed a request to annex about 97 acres into the city limits. If some of this sounds familiar it is because Garber, who owns a property management business in Lawrence, has made similar annexation requests to the city before. But the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission has balked at expanding the city limits northward.

The property does have an interesting element: It is in the Perry-Lecompton school district. That means you could possibly have a home there, see Free State High or Langston Hughes Elementary from your porch, but your kids wouldn’t be able to attend those schools. Instead, they would go to schools in Lecompton or Perry, which are about 15 minutes or 10 miles northwest of the site.

Parents in the neighborhood could ask the Lawrence district to accept their students as transfers. But past administrators have said that is unlikely because it creates a tough financial situation for the district. The Lawrence district doesn't get to collect taxes on development that occurs in the Perry-Lecompton district.

The plan now is to design the neighborhood to appeal to “empty nesters and retirees who are looking to downsize,” according to documents filed with City Hall. That means homes likely would be about 1,400 square feet and would be below a price of $200,000, in today’s dollars.

Below is a conceptual layout of the neighborhood.

A proposed concept plan for a new housing development north of Rock Chalk Park. Courtesy: City of Lawrence

A proposed concept plan for a new housing development north of Rock Chalk Park. Courtesy: City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn

The project will require some significant infrastructure improvements. A city sewer line already goes through the area, but East 902 Road, largely a gravel road today, would need to be converted into a city street. A city waterline would be added at the same time. Those infrastructure improvements are expected to cost $4.5 million to $5.5 million, according to the plans. The developers propose forming a benefit district, which is a system where the city finances the project but property owners in the area pay for it through special assessments on their property tax bills. Sometimes the city at large chips in to pay a portion of the expenses, but not always. Whether the city at large would pay for any of the road could be a sticking point with this City Commission.

As I noted, the city previously has balked at annexing this property and opening the door for major development in the area. David Hamby, and engineer with BG Consultants who is working on the project, said a couple of things have changed since that time. Lawrence Memorial Hospital has announced plans to build a $93 million outpatient medial building on property adjacent to Rock Chalk Park. Hamby said the facility — which will have multiple doctors offices, therapy services and other medical providers — would be an attractive amenity, especially for folks in the retiree market.

The other factor at play, Hamby said, is the city’s affordable housing issue. He contends that part of what is driving up housing prices in Lawrence is a lack of available housing lots in new subdivisions. While those new subdivisions aren’t always the place where affordable housing gets built, a lack of building lots in the city ultimately drives up housing prices across all sectors of the market.

Certainly, the project may face some pushback with that argument. Opponents of “greenfield development” on the edge of town often point to available lots within the city limits. Hamby acknowledged there are undeveloped lots in the city, but often they aren’t available in the quantity that allows builders to take advantage of economies of scale. Plus, he said getting the approvals for infill residential development has proved to be difficult too.

“Neighbors don’t like to have something they see as green space be developed,” Hamby said. “And there are very few large places in town left to develop.”

One other argument that could come into play: If city commissioners want to see more retail development in the already-approved Mercato development south of Rock Chalk Park, more houses in the area likely would help.

The project ultimately will need approvals from both the Planning Commission and the City Commission before it can move forward. Hamby also said, if the project does proceed, it will move ahead in phases. He said it could take a decade for the entire 230 homes to be built and occupied.

“It would develop regularly and consistently, but it won’t be like ‘boom,’ everything is there,” he said.

One part of the project that could get started sooner is a self storage unit facility that is slated for about 11 acres of property. That part of the project previously received a conditional use permit to be developed as a county project. However, Garber is seeking to have that development site also annexed into the city limits and zoned for light industrial uses, which would accommodate a self-storage business.

Motorists on the adjacent South Lawrence Trafficway likely have noticed the construction of a retaining wall north of Rock Chalk Park. That is part of the self-storage project, Hamby said. I don’t have a lot of other details about how large the self-storage business would be, but Hamby said it would be geared toward residential users rather than small warehouse space for businesses.


Brett McCabe 3 weeks, 3 days ago

The first question, to any city commissioner is this: in 30 years, how will services to a distant neighborhood be financed? If there isn't firm plan in place to have this development 100% self-sufficient in terms of infrastructure repair, maintenance, etc., then this is an easier no that when your kid asks if they could go to Mizzou.

Cities are going bankrupt by not thinking ahead to expenses that will be incurred generations down the line. The simple answer must always be: the neighborhood can financially sustain itself. Period. If not, why do it? If it will be a financial burden later, why say yes now?

The land next to Rock Chalk is only going up in value. Just like the land south of the bypass on 59. There is absolutely no reason to accept any development that doesn't sustain itself, that doesn't build density and that isn't forward-thinking in its design and implementation. Think long, think hard and think smart before spreading the city out without a concrete way to pay for it. Forever.

On the plus side, I commend the design of the neighborhood in that it doesn't contain an anti-pedestrian, anti-bike, anti-community Cul de Sac. Through-roads help keep a city vital.

Nick Kuzmyak 1 week, 3 days ago

Very astute statement! All it takes to truly refuse an annexation request is a quick "do the math" check. And a reference to any current budget shortfalls...

Clark Coan 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Residential developments don't pay their own way. Industrial development does. Not sure about commercial.

Richard Heckler 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Say no. Taxpayers cannot afford this nonsense.

Properties are selling at inflated values which says to me bankers are being reckless ..... maybe they are being reckless is because taxpayers have always been FORCED to bail out bad business decisions. Hot markets have been preceding bank bailouts since Reagan/Bush.

How much can it be owning a home that has more debt than market value can bring? Or having the bank deny a sale unless owner forks over $30,000? Think about this.

Developers should be paying their own way instead of elected officials giving away our tax dollars knowing Lawrence has plenty of infrastructure longing for some attention. Clark Coan is absolutely correct .......residential does not pay back the taxpayers.

Say No way jose! Not on my nickel.

Steve Jacob 3 weeks, 3 days ago

The library does not pay back tax payers, the bus does not pay back tax payers, ect.

Lawrence does not have enough homes on the market, especially with the 2-3K people we are adding a year right now.

Greg DiVilbiss 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Lack of inventory is causing rising prices. Supply and demand.

Nick Kuzmyak 1 week, 3 days ago

That is absolutely true, but the main reason for lack of supply is lack of land to develop on. The two choices: greenfield development that leads to sprawl and increased traffic (because, let's be serious, these will never be walkable developments), or infill development that relies on upzoning and densification of areas served by existing infrastructure. Unless we get a better zoning code and more adaptable (read: smaller-scale) developers, greenfields will always look more attractive for those needing to stay in business, let alone be profitable.

Richard Heckler 3 weeks, 3 days ago

'The plan now is to design the neighborhood to appeal to “empty nesters and retirees who are looking to downsize,” NOTHING BUT POLITICAL RHETORIC = nonsense.

Job losses are on the horizon we must accept that. Millions of white collar positions are going abroad. Beware. Job markets in the USA are not solid.

Richard Heckler 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Reckless Growth Increases Taxes and Drains Our Wallets !http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report00/intro.asp

The trend is downtown http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30810275/#.UlUyt2Tk8Wc

Bill Moyers on Local Corporate Welfare - http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/transcript.html and

Free Lunch – how the politically connected increase their wealth then send we taxpayers the bill http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans

America is Over Stored http://www.newsweek.com/id/112762

Next Decade Has Bleak Growth Prospects -Without reforms, America's employment prospects are bleak | TheHill http://thehill.com/opinion/international/358515-without-reforms-americas-employment-prospects-are-bleak

Nov 3, 2017 - The American workforce is expected to face multiple headwinds over the next decade, including an aging population, greater automation etc etc etc ... There long have been warnings about American workers' diverging economic prospects, with middle-skill occupations hollowed-out from the twin ...

Steve Jacob 3 weeks, 3 days ago

$200,000 "in today's dollars" is code for they don't know, especially if it's in a special tax district.

Greg DiVilbiss 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Why does Perry Lecompton school district come to the edge of the current city limits? Who decides where district boundaries are? Why would the Perry Lecompton district be miles from the city?

Beverly Stauffer Thrower 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Greg, the district boundaries were in place when my parents went to school in the 50s, before the Lecompton and Perry districts merged. (We ARE two separate towns, Lecompton in Douglas County and Perry in Jefferson County.) Back then, mom tells me, the west edge of Lawrence was Iowa Street. When I was a kid, the west edge was Kasold, and Wakarusa was a gravel road familiarly known as "Dragstrip Road" because there was a dirt racing track there. The Lecompton district encompassed some of the then-rural areas west of Lawrence. Fun fact - by the time I was in school my cousins on one side of their gravel road in Wakarusa township were in the P-L district, and the kids who lived on the other side of the road were in the Lawrence district. (This is south of hwy 40.) The short answer to your question is that the city limits have grown, but those boundaries haven't changed. Since the district boundary determines which district gets the property tax revenue from that area as well as which schools students attend, don't be surprised if they remain unchanged.

Richard Heckler 1 week, 3 days ago

Sorry no more special "tax incentives" available .............. all new infrastructure should be billed to each new residential unit.

Helter Skelter Growth is draining OUR pocketbooks and raising OUR taxes. Forget further flooding of the retail markets there will never be enough sand bags !!!!!!

There are consequences to helter skelter aimless growth that which promotes over saturation of the markets. These consequences usually go unmentioned. It seems elected officials and real estate profiteers are draining OUR pocketbooks and raising OUR taxes.

Is 19.4 % in property tax increases on the table not enough?

Which does not include sales tax increases or recommended increases! Is it possible that local taxes have increased by 100% since perhaps 1990?

Certainly it is my feeling that should more projects and all annexation which are tax dollar tax dollar handouts be put before the voters.

The results of voting would reflect a frugal, fiscal conservative yet responsible taxpayer community. The buck should stop with the city commission instead they send we taxpayers the bills.

Out of control subsidies: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2013/04/10/stop-out-of-control-business-subsidies


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

Why Downtown Development May Be More Affordable Than the Surburbs (Sprawl is the ultimate dinosaur = sprawl does not expand the tax base it expands our tax bills) http://www.forbes.com/sites/citi/2014/03/14/why-downtown-development-may-be-more-affordable-than-the-suburbs/

Richard Heckler 1 week, 3 days ago

HOW is financing being provided on beyond reality inflated market values?

Are taxpayers going to be forced to bailout the lending industry for the 4th time ..... that I can remember?

Why can't the lending industry stand on its' own? as in I expect some to go belly up.

Conservatives are in control again which will being another lending scam ........ and quick drop in property values = balance of such is less than market value will bring.


Richard Heckler 1 week, 3 days ago

One more expense to this helter skelter growth scheme = the more Lawrence grows the more the crime rate grows the more the budget grows to jail criminals, hold alleged criminals not to mention the additional need for more law enforcement officers. Lawrence is now talking about 168 new prisoner beds at a cost of millions to we the taxpayers.

We've apparently outgrown out police department thus we need millions more for a new location plus millions more for additional officers.

In 1987 crime was hardly a matter of discussion and homes to buy were somewhat scarce yet life was real good in spite of those two situations.

When should we stop growing for more people? Instead let's simply provide great paying jobs for employees who can live reasonably close to these jobs BUT will not be draining our wallets that like to retain some expendable cash.

Neighborhoods are growing at a far more rapid pace than great paying jobs yet residential growth does not pay for itself due to the very long list of desirable elements a resident expects from the city and county. Low wage jobs cost communities ways too much money.

The question becomes why are growing so many more houses instead of good paying jobs? People can live anywhere yet be employed here. Then employees can go home to anywhere thus granting relief form the expense of the long list of desirable elements that a new home expects.

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