Soon a yellow and black sign likely will be prominently displayed to reserve a prime parking spot in downtown Lawrence.
No, Hell hasn’t frozen over and the city isn’t beginning to reserve parking spaces for Missouri Tiger fans. (Although, we ought to consider it. If a Tiger fan is willing to go to the trouble to take his car down off the blocks in his front yard, the least we can do is help him get a parking space.)
But no, that’s not what city commissioners will be contemplating tonight. Instead, commissioners will be considering a program to allow Hertz — and its yellow and black sign — to begin an on-demand car rental program in downtown.
Hertz has four cars that are part of an on-demand program on the KU campus. The program has been used enough that the company has an interest in placing a fifth car in downtown.
The program works like this: Hertz will have a dedicated parking spot — hence the sign, which, have I mentioned, is yellow and black — in the free two hour lot on the west side of New Hampshire Street near Eighth Street. (City lot No. 4, if you are scoring along at home.)
If you think you may want to use the car sometime, you sign up for the program and get a swipe card. Then, you can rent the car anytime online, swipe the card to unlock the doors, and away you go.
Eileen Horn, the city-county sustainability coordinator, worked to get the program in place for downtown because she thinks it may actually make people more comfortable using public transportation.
Horn said some people are nervous about riding the bus, biking or walking to work because they never know when they may unexpectedly need to use a car.
“If you have to run and get your child at school for some reason, you’ll have a car to do it,” Horn said as an example.
City commissioners are being asked to give final approval for the program at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today.
There are no fees for the city to pay to be a part of the program. The city, however, will need to donate use of the parking space to Hertz. The city is proposing a month-to-month donation agreement to monitor how the program progresses.
Horn said she expects the program could begin in two to four weeks.
Iwig Dairy seeks license for mobile food truck in North Lawrence; also considering future North Lawrence store
Mobile milk — and you don’t even need an app for it — is set to come to North Lawrence.
Iwig Dairy has filed for a permit to have a mobile food truck that sells fresh milk and dairy items in a city parking lot near Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence.
Tim Iwig, owner of the Tecumseh-based dairy, told me the food truck idea is a bit of a test to determine the level of demand in the North Lawrence market. He confirmed his company is looking at a permanent store location in a small, vacant building a bit north of North Second and Lincoln streets.
It won’t quite be the grocery store that North Lawrence has long said it needs, but it might meet a bit of the demand in that category.
“If we could get it started, then we could see what we could pull together,” Iwig said. “We have guys who like to bring us produce and eggs and that sort of thing. If we could get people going to the location, I think it could make a difference for us and for North Lawrence.”
But first, the food truck. Iwig hopes to have his business up and running within the next week. He said he plans to sell most of the items that he currently sells in his Lawrence store at 19th and Massachusetts. That means milk, cheeses, butter and probably some ice cream. Iwig, by the way, said the mobile food truck is not meant to replace the store’s 19th and Massachusetts location. (In case you are wondering what the construction is at 19th and Mass., there’s a coffee shop that will be going into a space next to the dairy store. I’ve got an interview with the owner and likely will report back tomorrow.)
Iwig hopes to have the mobile food truck up and running within a week. I don’t yet have days or hours for the truck, although Iwig has indicated it likely would be open a couple of weekday afternoons and Saturday afternoons.
In case you are confused about what location we’re talking about, it is the city-owned lot that basically is caddy-corner from Johnny’s Tavern. (I knew providing directions from a bar would help some of you.) It will be interesting to see if the city has helped start a trend here. If Iwig has success at the lot, will other mobile food vendors seek permission to locate there?
Food trucks are big business in some cities, and they usually take off when there is a spot that allows them to co-locate and build up some critical mass. That North Lawrence parking lot wouldn’t have been the first one to come to mind as a candidate for such a location, but I guess you never know.
What I do know is a cup of fresh ice cream, a fishing pole, the Kansas River, and perhaps a cold beverage other than milk sounds like a pretty decent afternoon. (And this time, I’ll keep the ice cream farther away from the bait bucket.)
This talk of Lawrence really becoming a retirement community is getting more serious all the time.
The city and county last month already committed to a marketing strategy and have expressed a willingness to boost the salary of the open position for director of the Douglas County Senior Services in an effort to get an expert into the community. Together, those two initiatives may cost $75,000 to $100,000 a year to fund, although there is hope the private sector will help with the marketing campaign.
But now there are signs of an effort that may dwarf that. The city on Tuesday will consider spending up to $12,500 to help draw up the paperwork for a new nonprofit organization that would be tasked with creating a “retirement village” in Lawrence or Douglas County. The money also would go to help pay for a consultant, with the balance of the funding likely coming from other partners.
Tuesday’s action would just get the ball rolling, but where it rolls to is the interesting part. City Commissioner Hugh Carter, KU Professor Dennis Domer and others have been talking for quite awhile now about the idea of an intergenerational village that would attract KU alumni and others back to the community.
There are still a lot of details that need to be worked out; where such a village would be built and how it would be funded are two of the larger ones. But a proposal to the City Commission starts to paint a picture. Here are some details:
• A village likely would be anywhere from 20 to 60 acres in size.
• Potential partners for the project include the city, the county, Kansas University, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the private sector, among others.
• About 25 to 35 percent of the project would be single-family homes, apartments and condominiums designed to attract people 62 years and younger. The private sector would build those living units.
• About 50 to 60 percent of the project would be a not-for-profit “continuing care retirement community” for people 62 and older. Such a facility would include independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care facilities.
• The project would include a substantial health care facility that would offer diagnostics, laboratory services, radiology, urgent care and other services that could be offered a by a community-based nursing program. Organizers hope the facility would be run by Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
• The project ideally would be located next to park land and athletic facilities. The design would highlight pedestrian activity, access to nature, and would integrate the senior and nonsenior living areas.
It appears the structure for the development would call for a new nonprofit organization to oversee the development. Creating that organization is what city commissioners are being asked to help with at their Tuesday meeting. The county also would be asked to contribute $12,500.
Once the organization is formed and a board is created, further planning can begin, including “creation of a development calendar, project visioning, financial projections, and site review,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter wrote in a memo to commissioners.
Eventually, it sounds like the group will want to hire a consultant that specializes in creating nonprofit retirement communities. Carter estimated the cost for the first phase of planning may run to about $75,000. Besides the city and the county, other potential funding partners are LMH, KU and Douglas County Senior Services.
If this project makes it past Tuesday — and it appears it will because the request is on the city’s consent agenda — it will be a project to watch in the weeks and months ahead.
Curbside recycling committee recommending city sign contract with Hamm Companies for local recycling center; question of whether to accept glass still undecided
So, this is what Lawrence’s more than year long process to add curbside recycling has come to: Would you like to supersize that?
City residents, and more directly city commissioners, are at the point of the ordering process where they have to decide just how much value they want to get out of their value meal. Or in other words, they have to decide how much extra they’re willing to pay for a few extras.
Commissioners will be tackling that subject at their meeting on Tuesday.
Unlike at your favorite fast food establishment, in the world of curbside recycling the choices don’t come down to whether you would like a mega fry or a super mega fry. Based on a new report out of City Hall, it appears commissioners have two decisions to make:
• How much extra are they willing to pay to have glass included in the city’s curbside recycling program.
• How much extra are they willing to pay to do business with a locally based company.
The city committee responsible for making a recommendation to the commission has punted on the idea of whether glass should be included in the city’s programs. City commissioners will have to figure that out sans a recommendation. For much of the last year, staff members have been assuming glass would not be part of the program. But last month the mayor and a few other commissioners expressed interest in adding glass once they saw the first round of bids for the service.
On the second issue, though, the city committee is making a strong recommendation to do business with a local company. The committee is recommending the city sign a contract with Perry-based Hamm Companies to build and operate a new recycling processing center just outside of North Lawrence.
That also would mean city of Lawrence crews would be responsible for collecting the curbside recycling materials. The city is recommending that option over two turnkey proposals from Kansas City’s Deffenbaugh Industries and Topeka’s Waste Management. Both of those companies already have recycling processing facilities, and both were proposing to have their private crews pick up the curbside recycling.
Both also are proposing to do so at a price that is less than the city’s recommended option. It still looks like a safe bet that curbside recycling will add less than $4 per month to the bills of city residents, even if the city includes glass in the program. But the city recommendation for city crews do the collection and to go with the brand new Lawrence-based center will add an extra 48 cents to 58 cents per month onto the bills of Lawrence residential trash customers, compared to the other proposals.
Here’s a quick look at the pricing options for what appears to be the top three options:
• Deffenbaugh Industries: Its crews would collect and its Kansas City center would process materials. Unlike the other companies, Deffenbaugh is not offering direct curbside service for glass, but has said it would work with Ripple Glass on a program. Monthly costs for the program: $2.25 to $2.57.
• Waste Management: Its crews would collect and its Topeka center would process materials. It has an option to either included glass in the curbside program or exclude it. Monthly costs for the program with glass: $2.81 to $3.22. Cost for the program without glass: $2.57 to $2.98 per month.
• Hamm Companies: Its lone proposal is for city of Lawrence crews to collect, while Hamm would process the material at a new facility it would build near the Douglas County-Leavenworth County line at the intersection of U.S. 24-40 Highway and Kansas Highway 32. The property currently is operated by Honey Creek Disposal, a solid waste company that provides service in several smaller towns, but Hamm has an option to buy the site. Hamm officials have said the center would involve a multimillion-dollar construction project and would employ 15 to 20 people once it becomes operational. Monthly costs for the program with glass: $3.39 to $3.78. Monthly costs without glass: $2.69 to $3.08.
At the moment, all recommendations focus on service being an every-other-week system. It appears cost concerns have eliminated the idea of weekly service at this point. All recommendations assume customers would be issued a 96-gallon plastic cart, which is a bit bigger than the city’s standard issue 65-gallon cart it uses for trash.
Like previous proposals, the new city system would be based on a "mandatory pay, voluntary usage system." That means every residential property in the city — single-family and multifamily — would pay for the curbside service, regardless of whether it's used.
Commissioners will sort out all the details at a 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday at City Hall. Here’s hoping there at least will be some fries to help us get through the meeting.
New York-based company confirms it has bought Naismith Hall and plans renovations; other real estate sales for the week
As we previously reported in Town Talk, all the signs were indicating that the major national apartment firm The Bromley Companies had purchased the large, privately owned student residence hall at the northeast cover of 19th Street and Naismith Drive.
Well, the New York-based company has now confirmed it. In a press release, the company said it has purchased the 504-bed Naismith Hall and plans some major renovations.
“It is an attractive, well-located building that has housed over 20,000 University of Kansas students over the years, and we plan to make a significant capital investment to transform the common areas and student rooms into exciting, fun, modern spaces for future generations of KU students.”
The company in 2013 plans to renovate the lobby to create a new lounge, study area, eating area and exercise area. Plans also include a multiyear project to modernize student rooms. Part of the renovations will focus on expanding wireless Internet connections throughout the building and upgrading broadband speeds, the company said.
After last night’s basketball game, I wonder if there are some flat screen TVs to replace as well.
According to property records, a Miami Beach-based company previously owned Naismith Hall.
As far as other land transfers, I have the list for the week ending Jan. 28. Click here to see it. There’s not much to report that we haven’t already mentioned before.
It does appear several deals we have reported on got finalized in the week. Investors in the Poehler Lofts building in East Lawrence purchased from longtime Lawrence property owner Harold Shepard additional land just south of the building for a possible second affordable house apartment project. And Genesis Health Clubs also completed its deal to buy the real estate of the former Lawrence Athletic Club from the lender that had taken over the property.
Lawrence’s South Iowa Street still isn’t going to have a mall, but soon it will have a staple of mall food courts across the country.
Panda Express, the country’s largest quick-service Chinese food restaurant chain, has filed plans to locate in the new building in front of Wal-Mart at the southeast corner of 33rd and Iowa streets.
As previously reported, an AT&T Wireless store will take a portion of the building, and in a little bit of a turn of events, Panda Express will take the rest. At one point, speculation was strong that Chipotle would occupy the building, but it looks as if the nationalities have changed on us.
I don’t have any word yet on when the restaurant may open. (The AT&T store, I’ve been told, is slated to open in March.) The Panda Express filing at City Hall was sparse on details. In fact, it doesn’t spell out that a Panda Express is the tenant, but the architectural plans have a Panda Express logo on them, which is a pretty good indicator.
The restaurant serves a lot of the basic Chinese dishes you are familiar with, such as, Kung Pao Chicken, Mandarin Chicken, and Broccoli and Beef. But it also has some less standard dishes like Honey Walnut Shrimp, Eggplant Tofu, and even some dishes with Angus steak. (Tofu or Angus steak, how am I ever going to decide?)
More interesting than the company’s menu, though, is its back story. I found this recent article on CNN Money that interviews the company’s two founders and co-CEOs, Andrew and Peggy Cherng.
Apparently, they met while in school at Baker University in Baldwin City, in the late 1960s. Both had immigrated to America — Andrew from China via Japan and Peggy from Burma.
Who knows? Maybe the founders will come back to the area for the store’s grand opening. It does appear that they’ve returned to Baker on occasion to help with fundraising at the private university.
If you are like me and enjoy reading about entrepreneurs, the entire CNN article is a pretty good read. It also isn’t too bad of a testimonial on the value of a Baker education. Panda Express, with about 1,500 restaurants, had revenue of about $1.7 billion last year.
‘Nanobrewery’ hopes to set up operations in western Douglas County; demand for tickets to downtown Lawrence craft beer expo anything but ‘nano’
My wife is always harping at me (we could just end the sentence right there) to consume more locally grown food.
Well, I’ve just heard of a local garden that has piqued my interest. Among its main crops are hops and barley. And no, they’re not using them to make some earthy breakfast bar. We’re talking about growing local crops to produce beer.
Lovers of craft beers will want to keep their eyes on a western Douglas County property that hopes to become a significant craft brewing operation.
Neil Hull, president of Flint Hills Brewery LLC, has purchased a former horse farm near the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Stull Road in western Douglas County.
Hull has begun the process of winning approval to locate a “nanobrewery” on the property. But the brewery will have a twist. It hopes to grow on site most of the grains it needs to produce its brews.
“We want to have a place where we can educate people about quality beer instead of just focusing on quantity of beer,” Hull said.
Hull said a hops crop already has been planted, barley was grown last year, and of course, growing wheat isn’t much of a problem in Kansas. The property already has large amounts of blackberry and raspberry plants that can be incorporated into the beers. (Oh, my wife is going to be pleased. I’m going to be so healthy.)
I hadn’t heard of much hop or barley production in Kansas, but Hull said the climate actually works pretty well for it here. The trick is having the right soil conditions and acid level and such. As a result, they do quite a bit of container farming so they can control those conditions better.
The brewery plans to use the locally grown products to specialize in Belgian style beer making. Hull was in the Marines and also worked for the Department of Defense and has traveled the world. He’s made several contacts in the Belgium brewing industry, and has a host of recipes for Belgian beers. The brewery, though, also will produce some American ales, IPAs and other such brews.
But it may not be doing any of that right away. Hull has just started the process needed to get the necessary permits for the business. The idea of a nanobrewery isn’t addressed in Douglas County’s zoning code, so planners are having to write new language for the business. That’s the part of the process the brewery is in now.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission has recommended approval of a new nanobrewery use that could be allowed in agriculturally zoned districts, as long as the brewery goes through the conditional use permit process. It now will have to be considered by the Douglas County Commission.
Bottomline, it may be another one to two years before the brewery has everything in place to open.
Once it does open, it won’t be a huge operation, but it also may not be as small as its ‘nano’ title suggests. As I read through the proposed regulations, it looks like a nanobrewery was limited to production of four barrels of beer, which I think would be a little less than 470 liters. So, I was thinking of this as a weekend brewery — as in enough beer to last about a weekend. (Doesn’t that sound about right to you?)
But as I talked to Hull, he said the four barrel limit was not an annual limit. It was a limit on how much the brewery could produce during any one brewing session. It basically is a limit on how much brewing equipment the brewery can have.
Hull said, eventually, he believes the business will produce 1,000 to 2,000 barrels a year. Hull, though, said that won’t require him to build some type of industrial type of building on the rural property along Stull Road.
“We’re not going for the sky out there,” Hull said. “It will look like the buildings that are already out there. We don’t want to be an eyesore or generate a lot of truck traffic or anything like that.”
Hull said he and his investors' plans do call for a tasting room on the property. But he said if all goes well he would hope to open a full-scale brew pub in west Lawrence in the future.
So, lots of things to keep an eye on out there in coming months. In the meantime, we can all just daydream of gardening season.
• Perhaps some of you may skip over the daydreams of gardens and start dreaming of the upcoming second annual Kansas Craft Brewers Exposition set for March 2 in downtown Lawrence.
Well, hopefully you didn’t fall asleep at the switch during the ticket purchasing period for the event. Cathy Hamilton, Downtown Lawrence Inc. director, confirmed to me that the expo is sold out.
Tickets went on sale Jan. 29, and Hamilton said the local supply of tickets sold out in about five minutes. The supply on Ticketmaster lasted about two hours. The event — which will take place in the Abe & Jake’s Landing building along the Kansas River in downtown — hosts about 700 spectators.
Organizers of the event — which includes Downtown Lawrence Inc. and Chuck Magerl of Free State Brewery — thought they were on to something last year when the event sold out in about 10 days.
This year’s success likely will lead to brainstorming of how to expand the festival, which already has more than 20 brewers signed up to provide samples of their products.
There had been a rumor that the festival was going to expand to two days this year, but Magerl recently told me that upon examination, a two-day festival would have created too many logistical problems for the breweries.
Hamilton, though, said organizers likely will do some thinking on how to accommodate the growing popularity of the festival.
“I think we’re looking at a festival here that could become a real signature event for downtown Lawrence,” Hamilton said.
The event provides a direct boost to Downtown Lawrence Inc. Proceeds from the event go to Downtown Lawrence Inc. Last year’s event generated upwards of $9,000 for the organization, Hamilton estimated.
Lawrence home sales increase by nearly 28 percent in 2012, but home values on the decline, according to two new reports
Another day and another sign that Lawrence’s economy had a bit of a bounce-back year in 2012.
Yesterday we reported on strong growth in retail sales in Lawrence. Well, Lawrence homebuyers are not to be outdone. They actually increased their buying pace faster than shoppers did.
A new report shows homes sales in Lawrence increased by 27.9 percent in 2012 compared to 2011 numbers. Real estate agents sold 899 homes in the city limits during the year, according to numbers compiled by the Lawrence Board of Realtors.
Sales hit an abysmal level in 2011, so having a large increase over those numbers is one thing. But also important to note is that sales totals for 2012 were about 8 percent above 2010 totals. So, the local real estate market made up for more than two years worth of losses in 2012.
Sales of newly constructed homes jumped by nearly 40 percent, totaling 88 for the year. But new home builders haven’t yet returned to the 2010 level of activity, when they sold 102 new homes.
Not all of the numbers indicated a housing rebound. Some indicated that sellers adjusted their expectations downward on what their homes are worth.
The median selling price in Lawrence checked in at $159,500, down 5 percent from $167,900 in 2011. The Board of Realtors report comes out at the same time that the Douglas County Appraiser’s office is finalizing its work on change-of-value notices that will be mailed to Douglas County homeowners.
While the Board of Realtors data shows a 5 percent drop in selling prices, most homeowners shouldn’t expect to see that type of decline in the home values that the county creates to figure your property tax bills. But many will see a decline, and for some this will be at least the second year in a row they’ve seen their properties lose value.
The preliminary numbers show about 28 percent of residential homeowners will see a decline between 2 percent and 4.99 percent in value.
Another 24 percent are expected to see declines between .01 percent and 1.99 percent, while another 8 percent are expected to see values drop by 5 percent or more.
About 33 percent of homeowners are expected to see their values remain steady.
The appraiser’s office is estimating 7 percent of residential properties in Lawrence and Douglas County will see some sort of increase in values.
When you add it all up, local governments may see their tax bases decrease by 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent as they begin building 2014 budgets this summer.
Homeowners should start receiving their change-of-value notices on Feb. 28, and then can begin determining whether they want to contest their values through the county process.
If you are wondering why the Board of Realtors numbers show a 5 percent decline in the average selling price, yet the appraiser is projecting most homeowners will see declines far less than that, there are some reasons.
The biggest is sample size. The Board of Realtors number is a selling price for just 900 homes. The appraiser’s office is trying to create a value for about 30,000 residential homes in the county.
A second factor is randomness. There’s no guarantee that the 900 homes sold by local real estate agents are representative of the type of housing stock that exists throughout the county. For example, four-bedroom ranch homes may have been the big seller in 2012. (This is just an example. I don’t know what the big seller was.) But four-bedroom ranch homes don’t make up the majority of the homes in Douglas County, so it would be difficult to use the selling price of those ranch homes to determine the value of other dissimilar homes.
But perhaps the most interesting reason is foreclosures, or their close cousin, short sales. I don’t have final 2012 foreclosure numbers yet, but I’ll work to get them. What I do know is that the Douglas County Appraiser’s office is not considering many of those foreclosure sales to be valid in terms of being comparable sales to set values for other properties.
On foreclosed properties, banks don’t get to keep the amount of money that is over and above the amount owed on a foreclosed mortgage. So, banks don’t have a lot of natural motivation to negotiate a deal that represents the full market value of a property. Their motivation is to get the foreclosed homes off their books. At least this is how Douglas County Appraiser Steve Miles has explained it to me previously.
In a recent report, he noted he’s seen several foreclosed properties bought and then almost immediately sold for double the purchase prices. That leads him to believe the foreclosure sales aren’t representative of fair market value in most cases.
All of it leads me to believe that it will be another interesting year in Douglas County real estate in 2013.
Tonight is one of those nights at Lawrence City Hall where people may come to appreciate the importance of technicalities.
There’s an item on the City Commission’s agenda that looks pretty technical because it involves a lot of language about development codes, definitions and other terms of art that make the hearts of city planners everywhere swoon.
There’s no denying there is plenty of technical stuff to wade through here, but really, city commissioners will be talking about an issue that often pits neighborhoods against landlords: How many people can live in a house in Lawrence?
The general rule for several years now has been that no more than three unrelated people can live in a single-family home, and no more than four unrelated people can live in a multifamily apartment and such.
But the key word in the phrase “general rule” is “general.” As the mayor recently found out, there are plenty of neighborhoods in Lawrence where more than three unrelated people can legally live in a single family home or duplex.
That’s because there are plenty of single-family homes or duplexes that are built on land not zoned for single-family or duplex construction.
In very simple form, the City Commission tonight will consider new rules that will take about 3,000 of those homes that currently can legally have four unrelated people living in them and reduce that number to no more than three unrelated people in them.
If approved, landlords will soon find out how a technicality can technically hit them in the wallet.
On the flip side, neighbors may find out how a few word changes can help reduce issues of overcrowding in their neighborhoods.
Which neighborhoods are we talking about? Well, for one, the west Lawrence neighborhood the mayor lives in. He discovered the vagaries of the city code when he realized there were more than three unrelated people living in a home across the street from his house on St. Andrews Drive.
But you are perhaps looking for more specifics than that. So, grab some toothpicks and prop those eyelids open. We are about to discuss the not-so-exciting world of zoning.
If you live in a neighborhood that falls into what I call the category of ‘P’ zoning, you will want to pay attention. (Gentlemen, you also don’t want to get confused about what rights ‘P’ zoning gives when you are faced with a full bladder and a long line at the restroom. It is not a defense that holds up in court.)
What I call P zoning are categories the city calls Planned Unit Developments, Planned Residential Developments, Planned Commercial Developments, Planned Industrial Developments and Planned Office Developments. Those are all specific zoning types in the city, and all of them technically allow for some residential development to occur.
The way the city code is written currently, any residential development in those P zoning categories can have up to four unrelated people. This gets confusing to neighbors because the houses often look like any other single-family house or duplex in the city, which are limited to three unrelated people. But it is the zoning of the land that dictates the rules that the house must follow.
The rule change up for discussion at tonight’s meeting would make it clear that single-family homes and duplexes in those P zoning categories would be limited to no more than three unrelated people.
A new city report estimates there are about 2,700 such homes in the P zoning districts that would be affected by the change. How many of them are rentals isn’t known, but I suspect the number is fairly large.
A few other zoning categories also would be affected. They include commercial and industrially zoned properties, which occasionally have homes built on them.
One category that is not included is the RM district, which is a type of multifamily zoning category. There are single-family style homes and duplexes built on that type of zoning, however. The Oread neighborhood is a good example of an area that has several homes that are on RM zoned property.
City staff members are not proposing that homes with RM zoning be included in the rule change. But a few residents of the Oread neighborhood are asking the City Commission to consider such a change. That would be a big one. The city estimates there are about another 4,000 units that may be affected by the rule change, if the RM district were included.
The discussion tonight is just the beginning of the process. If the city decides to move forward the Planning Commission will also have to debate the item. But if you are a landlord or a resident who lives in an area with a lot of rentals, it might be a debate worth watching. The City Commission meets at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall. You’ll have to bring your own toothpicks, though.
New numbers suggest Lawrence shoppers didn’t exactly go crazy during the holiday shopping season, but they did a pretty good job of being loose with their wallets every other time of the year.
The city has closed the books on its 2012 sales tax collections, which means we also can look at 2012 retail sales.
The year end report shows $1.35 billion worth of taxable sales took place in Lawrence in 2012, up from $1.29 billion in 2011. That’s an increase of 5.2 percent, which is the largest growth rate for retail sales since 1998, when the city had an 8.5 percent jump in sales.
The city posted the strong numbers despite the fact that sales tax collections in December were down significantly. December collections were off by about 6 percent from the same period in 2011. The December report — because of lag times in reporting — represents sales made in mid-October to mid-November, which means the early part of the holiday shopping season.
The city also released its January 2013 report, which gives a little more hope that the holiday season wasn’t all that bad. Collections during that period were up 6.7 percent from the same period a year ago. That report tracks sales made from mid-November to mid-December, so right in the heart of the holiday season.
The December and January reports kind of offset each other, so the holiday sales totals thus far are a bit of a wash. The 2012 holiday totals are up 0.1 percent from the same period in 2011. The February report, which will report sales from mid-December to mid-January, will tell the story on this year’s holiday shopping season. Those numbers should be out in a few more weeks.
Until then, here are some other facts and figures from the 2012 sales tax report:
• The city collected $32.36 million in sales taxes in 2012, which was up from the $30.55 million the city had budgeted to collect during the year.
• Retail sales in Lawrence were up on a consistent basis throughout 2012. Retail sales were up during 10 out of the 12 reporting periods in 2012. Only the December and September periods were down when compared with the same period a year ago.
• The $1.35 billion in taxable sales, when adjusted for inflation, was the highest total since 2008, when the city had $1.36 billion in inflation adjusted sales. That’s significant because it shows Lawrence’s retail numbers almost have recovered what was lost during the Great Recession.
As for how Lawrence compared with other cities around the state, here’s a look at a few:
• Lawrence: 5.2 percent
• Baldwin City: 0.7 percent
• Basehor: 20.9 percent
• Emporia: down 1.9 percent
• Eudora: 8.6 percent
• Kansas City, Kan.: 5.9 percent
• Leavenworth: 0.9 percent
• Olathe: 4.3 percent
• Ottawa: 0.8 percent
• Overland Park: 3.5 percent
• Shawnee: 0.9 percent
• Tonganoxie: down 8.0 percent
• Topeka: 0.1 percent
One thing I did notice is that most cities had a better first half of the year than they did a second half. We’ll see what 2013 brings. More credit bills in my mailbox is my guess.