Posts tagged with Lawrence Government

New city survey shows about 20 percent have concerns with taste of city’s drinking water

A bit “earthy” is how Lawrence city officials described the taste and smell of the city’s drinking water for a period in June 2012.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that is the adjective of your choice to describe the city’s tap water during last summer’s outbreak of geosmin, an algae byproduct that was in the city’s drinking water.

While “algae byproduct” certainly is a phrase city officials would like to no longer have associated with their water supply, city commissioners have a multimillion dollar question facing them on that subject.

City officials continue to estimate that it will cost about $19 million to equip the city’s two water treatment plants with new equipment to make it less likely that geosmin outbreaks will affect the city’s tap water. If the geosmin posed a health risk to the public, it would be an easy decision. But geosmin isn’t a danger to health; it's just a danger to taste buds.

At their meeting on Tuesday, commissioners will receive a report from the city auditor on the water’s occasional taste and odor issues, but it doesn’t do much to answer the tough question of whether commissioners ought to undertake a major, unbudgeted upgrade to the city’s water treatment plants.

But the audit does include results from a survey city officials took of water customers. Let’s see if you feel the same as respondents to the survey, which was sent out to about 1,700 water customers in early December. Here’s a look at the results:

• 56.8 percent of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the taste of their drinking water.

• 18 percent of respondents were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the taste of their drinking water. The balance of people were either neutral on the subject or didn’t have an opinion.

• 60.7 percent were either satisfied or very satisfied with the smell of their drinking water.

• 16 percent were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the smell of their drinking water.

• 92.2 percent were either satisfied or very satisfied with the reliability of the water service.

• 51.3 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall value they received for their water and sewer rates.

• 21.2 percent were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the value they received for the water and sewer rates. Those last numbers about the value customers think they’re getting for their water and sewer service could end up being particularly important. If the city is going to make $18 million worth of upgrades to its water plants, it is hard to imagine how it will do that without raising rates.

Commissioners have been sensing that customers may have a bit of rate fatigue, and this survey, which has a margin of error of about 5 percent, may raise some new flags on that subject.

City officials still haven’t settled on a new rate plan for 2013 for the water and sewer service. The city has been using 2012 rates thus far in the new year. Commissioners are scheduled to have a study session on Feb. 12 to discuss those issues.

Shortly after last summer’s issues with taste and odor, city commissioners were talking pretty strongly about the need for improvements at the water plant. But since then, staff members have been highlighting the improvements they already have made; they’ve bought specialized equipment to better test for geosmin, for example.

The new report from the city auditor on the taste and odor issue was the type of report that could have provided more fuel to the fire for improvements at the water plants. But it didn’t. The report really didn’t get into the issue of how other communities deal with this and what type of improvements would be appropriate.

So, it will be interesting to see where this issue goes. It may boil down to a simple question: What leaves a worse taste in your mouth, a little bit of algae byproduct or an increase in water rates?

Reply 16 comments from Hujiko Gccs14r Tomatogrower Tandava Justanotherface Thelonious Cant_have_it_both_ways Keith Richards Matthew Herbert Adrienne Sanders and 2 others

New microbrewery planned for downtown Eudora

It’s beginning to make a little more sense.

Perhaps you are not like me and you don’t spend a good part of the year wondering why Winnie the Pooh acts so dang strange. Perhaps you also don’t have a spouse who fills your home with the odd little bear every holiday season. (You don’t know what you’re missing out on.)

Well, word of a potential new business has given me a clue why that dumb-dumb is always getting his head stuck in a bee hive: Mead.

Yeah, mead. A new business venture is betting you are not familiar with the alcoholic beverage, which is made of … fermented honey.

Work is underway to build a new microbrewery in downtown Eudora that will offer a variety of craft beers but also will be one of the few facilities in the region to produce mead.

Area residents John Randtke and James Hightree are teaming up to open the Wakarusa Brewery in the coming months.

As anyone who has listened to me on a Saturday night can attest, that when I combine stories and beer, the details can get a little fuzzy. That’s the case here too. I chatted briefly with Randtke, and he said he hopes the business will be open by the fall, but said it could get pushed to early next year.

The business has signed a deal to purchase a long vacant building in the 700 block of Main Street in downtown Eudora. If you are familiar with that bustling thoroughfare, is the old vacant antique store building kind of across the street from the post office.

The building needs significant work, but Randtke has been through those type of projects before. He’s a mechanical design engineer for a local company that works to make buildings more energy efficient.

“We’re going to try to make it a small-town pub feel,” Randtke said of plans for the building. “I want it to be a quiet place where folks can go hang out and have a drink.”

But make no mistake, brewing will be the main activity at the building. About two-thirds of the building will be devoted to the brewing process.

Randtke said he and Hightree, who will serve as the day-to-day brewmaster, will specialize in making strong IPAs and stout, hoppy brews.

And, of course, there will be the mead. Randtke said he’s not aware of any restaurants or bars in the area that are serving locally produced mead, but he said the idea is catching on in some larger cities, like Chicago.

Technically, state regulators don’t consider mead a beer, and so Wakarusa Brewery will have to get a winery license to produce the beverage. But that has an advantage, Randtke said, because a new state law allows wineries to get a license to sell their products at farmers markets and such. That is part of the company’s future plans.

As for what to expect when you get that first chalice of mead (I don’t know why, but that’s what I expect my mead to be served in), it could be a little bit of anything. Randtke said meads can take on all different types of flavors. Some commercial meads have strong flavor patterns of cinnamon or vanilla, and many are pretty sweet. Randtke said he plans to make several drier varieties.

I think I would ask Winnie the Pooh what he likes. He might be a good customer. On second thought, I’m not sure he’s the type you really want around in a bar. With a last name like his, he’s bound to get into a lot of bar fights.

Reply 6 comments from Msezdsit Chad Lawhorn Mindspeaking Karl_hungus Buffalo63 Hooligan_016 Pikespeakjhawk

Economic development board questions whether new vo-tech campus ought to be located on former Farmland Industries site

When voters go to the polls in April, they may have junior college on their minds just a bit. That’s because about $5.7 million of the Lawrence Public School district’s proposed $92.5 million bond issue would go towards bringing together three area community colleges to create a new campus for vocational and technical training.

For one group of voters, though, the idea will be on their minds more than just a bit. Economic development leaders have made the idea of a new technical training center one of their higher priorities.

On Friday morning it started to become clear that some eco devo leaders may want to see the plans for the new technical center changed some.

Doug Gaumer — chair of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's board — raised a question at the meeting of the Lawrence-Douglas County Joint Economic Development Council: Why isn’t the school district planning on building its new vocational and technical training center on a portion of the former Farmland Industries site along Kansas Highway 10 in eastern Lawrence?

Currently, the school district has been focusing on refurbishing an existing school district building — commonly known as the Community Connection Center — which is sort of hidden a couple of blocks west of 25th and Iowa streets. Current plans call for Johnson County, Kansas City and Neosho County community colleges to provide classes at the location.

Gaumer said he was concerned about whether that location would be visible enough and convenient enough for employers who want to send employees to the center for training.

“I’m afraid we wouldn’t get any play off of that location,” said Gaumer, who is the president for the local Intrust Bank locations in Lawrence. “It would be good to have it next to more businesses.”

That’s why the former Farmland property might be a good location, Gaumer said. The city is working to convert the approximately 400-acre former fertilizer plant into a business and industrial park. The property has high visibility along K-10 highway.

The Joint Economic Development Council was more in a brainstorming mode today than a decision-making mode, so the group didn’t take any action on the idea.

But I got the impression that this might be an idea that starts gaining some momentum, or at least causes economic development leaders to ask the school district to consider changing plans.

City Manager David Corliss said he suspects the City Commission would be open to listening to any request for the school district to use a portion of the Farmland property for a vo-tech/community college branch location. The Farmland property has about 200 acres that can be redeveloped, and the vo-tech campus would only require a small portion of it.

The bigger issue may be whether the $5.7 million currently included in the proposed bond issue would be enough to accommodate an entirely new building. I believe the district was planning on doing more renovating rather than new construction on this project.

But the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce continues to talk about the need for additional vocational training as being one of the community’s top economic development priorities. The chamber also continues to explore the feasibility of a multimillion-dollar, multiyear private fundraising campaign for economic development initiatives. It will be interesting to see if there’s any talk of private fundraising being used to help build a more ambitious vocational school.

Reply 9 comments from Richard Heckler Mikekt Foodboy No_thanks Matthew Herbert Pace Keith

Pittsburg State proving Lawrence and KU not the only university-city sports facility partnership

Lawrence, don’t be alarmed, but a group of Gorillas have been watching you. Now, it is our turn to watch them, for at least a moment.

The folks at Pittsburg State University — home of the Pitt State Gorillas — have been reading with interest all the comings and goings related to the proposed Rock Chalk Park athletic center concept involving KU and the city of Lawrence.

That’s because Pittsburg State and the city of Pittsburg have been working on their own partnership to build a new athletic facility.

Some of you recently saw articles reporting that the city of Pittsburg had agreed to contribute $5 million to a proposed $17 million athletics and events center project at Pitt State. And several of you had asked me how that compared to what was going on in Lawrence.

Well, I recently chatted with a Pitt State official. I’m not sure it is wise to make too many direct comparisons between the Lawrence and Pittsburg projects, but I’m sure that won’t deter some of you. The projects have different components, so it is a little like comparing apples and oranges — but, hey, they’re both fruit anyway.

But here are the details I’ve been given by Pitt State’s Shawn Naccarato, director of government and community relations: The university is planning to build on campus an approximately 123,000 square foot building that will house a competition-grade 300-meter indoor track, an 80-yard practice football field that also can be used for soccer and such, and spectator seating for about 1,000 people.

Sound kind of familiar? Well, familiar, if not necessarily similar. If you are scoring along at home, the proposed Lawrence recreation center is a 181,000-square-foot building that would have eight full-size basketball courts, a walking track, fitness area, an indoor turf field, gymnastics area, a wellness center and a few other features.

The area articles reported the Pitt State project has a price tag of $17 million, but Naccarato told me that also includes an upgrade of the nearby gymnasium and locker rooms where Pitt State plays its basketball games. The new building is estimated to cost about $13 million.

The Lawrence recreation center project has many price tags. The city has one architectural report that estimates the city’s project has a market value of $33.5 million. But that includes all the parking for the project, all the roads leading to the project and other improvements that go beyond the recreation center building itself. The price tag most publicly talked about is $25 million. That is the guaranteed price for the entire project that a partnership involving Kansas University Endowment and Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel are offering to the city.

In terms of just the recreation center building itself, the city’s report estimates it has a market value of about $19.3 million. At 181,000 square feet, that equates to about $106 per square foot.

The Pitt State project, at about 123,000 square feet, comes to about $105 per square foot. So, in the same ballpark for sure, but how many times do I have to tell you that you shouldn’t compare these two? (I don’t know why you keep comparing them.) They’re different projects. For example, I didn’t get any details about whether the Pitt State project includes parking in the $13 million pricetag, and that would impact the price comparison significantly.

(Plus you definitely don’t want me doing architectural comparisons, as my last foray into architecture — a simple birdhouse — would attest. I’d tell you to ask the birds about that project, but they’re not chirping anymore, if you know what I mean.)

One aspect of the Pitt State project that may draw some attention here is that the facility is being designed to include a special flooring that can cover the track and turf field area, which will allow the building to be easily converted into an expo center or convention hall.

There really hasn’t been any talk of that yet in Lawrence. Maybe that is the sort of thing that can be added later, or maybe it is the sort of thing that has to be contemplated at the design stage of the building. I don’t know. But it is kind of surprising that it hasn’t received much, if any, discussion. If the city ever thinks it needs a convention center — and that idea has come up before — this likely will be the largest public building constructed in quite some time in Lawrence, and it has a pretty wide-open design that could accommodate convention and expo-like events.

Of course, there’s also lots of development land immediately adjacent to the recreation center, or just across the South Lawrence Trafficway, that could support hotels, restaurants and the other types of development you would expect to see around an events center.

We could go on and on about what type of events that sort of facility might attract to the city, but we won’t. I’ve got to wrap this article up because the chirping birds outside my window are driving me crazy.

Time to build another birdhouse.

Reply 11 comments from Andrew Boyd Meatheadwisdom Just_another_bozo_on_this_bus Jonathan Fox 1yardstare Ohjayhawk Brian Iverson

The latest list of property sales in Lawrence and Douglas County

Another week means another week of real estate sales and land transfers as recorded by our friends down at the Douglas County Courthouse.

Nothing too much to report on the commercial front this week, but click here to see the complete list of property sales for the week ending Jan. 21.

One listing of note did take place in downtown Lawrence. The weekly report lists the buildings at 930, 932 and 934 Massachusetts St. sold from Round Corner Building Corp., which was led by the late Lawrence businessman James Salyer, to CNH LLC, which is led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton.

The building is the large multitenant building that includes Minsky’s Pizza, The Yarn Barn and several professional service offices. The ownership change really isn’t all that new. Compton has controlled the buildings for quite some time. According to the filings at the courthouse, his group was buying the building on contract, and this most recent listing just signifies the completion of that transaction.

Reply 3 comments from Number_1_grandma Patkindle irvan moore

Chutney’s Indian restaurant set to open on Monday; burrito madness in downtown Lawrence

Ever since back in July when we reported a new ethnic restaurant that billed itself as the Indian version of a Chipotle was going to open in downtown, I’ve been getting questions about what the heck that means.

Well, soon you’ll be able to find out. Chutney’s at 918 Massachusetts St. is set to open on Monday.

Owner Rasesh Patel said the Chipotle description is still a good one, but that doesn’t mean the restaurant’s menu is going to be full of wraps. Instead, it is just his way of saying that it will be a casual-style, quick-service type of restaurant.

“It is going to be completely different than the typical Indian restaurant you are used to seeing,” Patel said. “It is Indian food, but we are trying to make it a little faster so that it can be food on the go too.”

Patel has been working with a chef out of Chicago who has patented a process for efficiently preparing a variety of Indian dishes.

Now, I don’t know enough about Indian food to even make a good joke here. (I know, you’re asking yourself when the Town Talk standard became that the jokes had to be good.) But in terms of menu items, Patel shared a few details with me. He said the restaurant regularly will offer chicken, beef, lamb and pork dishes, plus bean, rice and other dishes that will qualify as vegetarian, or in some cases, vegan.

Expect to see classic Indian dishes (or so I’m told) such as: Chicken Tikka Masala; Pork Vindaloo (I don’t know how it tastes, but it is fun to say); something called Spinach Paneer, which I believe is a spinach and cottage cheese-like dish; along with some fried-rice based dishes, various types of Indian tea, mango juice and a couple of Indian desserts.

The restaurant also will have a small bar area, but Patel said Kansas liquor laws have made it difficult for him to get the large assortment of Indian beers that he originally planned to stock.

• While we’re updating restaurant news, there was quite a scene last night at a local restaurant that surely says something about Lawrence. It either says we really like the idea of a new restaurant or we’re really cheap, or perhaps both.

Freebirds World Burrito was holding a special preview party at its new restaurant at 739 Massachusetts St. The event featured a free entrée and a drink. When I drove by at 6 p.m., there was a line out the door that stretched the width of two or three downtown stores. And this was in the rain. About an hour later, the line was even longer.

It will be interesting to see what burrito madness takes place today. The restaurant is officially opening tomorrow, and it is offering a promotion that the first 25 people in line will receive free burritos for a year. So, with a forecast of 18 degrees tonight, we’ll soon see just how cheap Lawrence is.

Last night’s event, however, did have a charitable cause connected to it. The Freebirds folks were suggesting a $5 donation to their nonprofit partners in the event, The Lawrence Humane Society and the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. So, I’m sure Lawrence last night was lining up in the rain to be charitable, not cheap.

Reply 17 comments from Jafs Lawrence_bar_talk Thinking_out_loud Richard Heckler Stephanie Hull irvan moore Janet Cinelli Clovis Sangrail Fretster Myop and 8 others

This and that about Petco, AT&T Wireless store and Ross Dress for Less along South Iowa Street

Pets, phones and less dresses, I guess: That’s what a little bit of sign watching on South Iowa Street has produced today.

• First, pets. All you pet lovers can quit worrying about the future of Lawrence’s Petco store near 31st and Iowa. I had several readers ask if the store was on the way out because it recently had removed the signs from its building at 3115 Iowa St.

A store employee there told me this morning that wasn’t the case. Petco has a new logo and sign strategy, and the Lawrence store is set to get new signs in another week or so.

“We’re not going anywhere,” the employee said, who noted the store underwent a fairly significant interior remodeling in June.

But she said she had fielded several calls in the last few days about what was happening at the store.

“People come in and ask what happened to the sign, and I tell them someone came in and stole it overnight,” she said.

• Beautiful orange awnings are now a part of the South Iowa Street corridor. It looks like crews are getting close to completing the new retail building that is in the northwest corner of the Walmart parking lot at 33rd and Iowa streets.

We previously had reported that the speculation was an AT&T Wireless phone store and a Chipotle restaurant were going to move into the space. Well, the orange awnings probably are all the confirmation you need that an AT&T store is set to move into the space, but we now have official word as well. City officials confirmed that AT&T has filed for a sign permit at the location. Chipotle, however, hasn’t yet filed for a sign permit, so we’ll keep an eye open for that.

My understanding is the new AT&T store will replace the company’s store on 23rd Street. An employee at the 23rd Street store told me a move is scheduled to happen sometime in March.

• Now, about this idea of less dresses. Wait a second, that’s a misread on my part. It actually is dress for less. We’re talking about the Ross discount clothing store that is slated to go into the former Old Navy location near 33rd and Iowa streets.

For several months now, there has been a lot more of the “less” than there has been of the “dress” in the Ross project. We’ve been reporting since January that there was speculation a Ross store was set to swoop in and take the spot left vacant by Old Navy’s closing in early 2012.

This summer, the company pulled a building permit to do about $800,000 worth of work at the store.

By the time the holiday shopping season arrived, Ross had a sign up, but it never did open. I did a little window peeking today, and the main part of the store is completely empty except for a single folding table. For $800,000, I had expected to see gold-ensconced clothing racks, or at least a multistory, dressed-for-less mannequin named Ross. (In seriousness, I heard a lot of the construction was related to the store’s rear loading dock, for whatever reason.) I’ve tried to get in touch with Ross officials at their California headquarters at various times over the past few months, but with no luck. But I’ll try again and see if I can get an opening date for the store. There are still ads online for part-time sales associates, and the sign still says “coming soon.”

Reply 6 comments from Jessica Bergin Beth Bird Dover Stirrrthepot Tim Herndon Cheezit

Online petition drive asks city commissioners to put $25M recreation center project up for citywide vote

There was a fairly interesting development this weekend related to the city’s proposed regional recreation center.

It started with an article in the Journal-World on Sunday about the various positions each City Commission candidate has taken on the proposed $25 million regional recreation center.

Candidate Scott Criqui said, among other things, that he would support the commission calling for a citywide election on the recreation center vote, if residents showed they really wanted a vote — like through a petition drive.

“If a group gathered 3,000 signatures or something like that, it would tell me that there is some concern out there,” Criqui said in the article. “But I haven’t heard of anyone who has done that yet.”

Well, Criqui might as well have said the word “abracadabra,” because by Sunday morning an online petition had begun.

The petition is active at the online site The petition was started by some fellow named Nick Danger. I didn’t find a listing for him in the local phone directories, but I’m working under the assumption that Nick Danger might be an assumed name.

As of Monday morning, the petition had 69 signatures. I’m not overly familiar with, so I haven’t figured out yet how to see the full list of signatures. But the Web site shows several of the people who have signed, and it appears to be full of real-life people with real-life names.

It will be interesting to see what the number gets to by the time city commissioners are scheduled to perhaps take formal action on the recreation center project at their Feb 19 meeting.

The petition, of course, has no binding impact on the Lawrence City Commission. Its only impact will be whether a lot of signatures causes commissioners to reassess their thoughts on the need for an election.

Commissioners already have voted 5-0 to not put the issue on the ballot. Most of the commissioners have said that a 1994 sales tax vote for recreation projects and other needs made it clear that residents were in favor of such a project. Commissioner Mike Amyx, though, made his vote with the caveat that if residents presented a significant petition asking for a citywide vote, he would support putting the issue on the ballot.

I’m not sure what number, if any number, of signatures would cause a majority of commissioners to reconsider the idea of a citywide vote. As far as a legal petition that would force the city to place the issue on a ballot, I think that is a pretty tall order in Kansas.

But there is a state-prescribed referendum process for cities, and I believe in Lawrence it requires valid signatures totaling 25 percent or more of the number of voters in the last city election. (I’m basing this off what [I read online].) But if my interpretation is correct that the signatures only have to total 25 percent of the number of voters in the last election, then a successful petition would need somewhere between 1,700 to 2,700 signatures of registered voters. (I don’t have the exact number of voters in the 2011 election in Lawrence. There were 10,839 voters throughout the county in 2011, and I’m estimating about 7,000 of them were in Lawrence.)

If by chance I’m wrong, and you have to get 25 percent of the total number of people registered to vote, the number of signatures would grow to about 20,000. (I’ve got a call into the county clerk’s office to get a better education on this, and will update this post with what I learn.)

The referendum law also requires that the question on the ballot be a specific ordinance that would be adopted into law. So, asking a simple question of whether we should build a $25 million recreation center wouldn’t pass muster. It would have to be something like, an ordinance requiring public recreation projects totaling $25 million or more to be voted on by the voters of the city of Lawrence before construction can commence. (Again, I’m on a bit of shaky ground here in my understanding of the law.)

What is clear, is that an online petition is a heck of a lot easier. We’ll see where it goes.

UPDATE: I chatted briefly today with Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, and he confirmed that there is a process for putting issues on the ballot. Shew, though, said it is most likely to be used to call for a vote on an item that already has been approved by the City Commission, rather than proposing a new ordinance that the City Commission adopt.

How that would apply, if at all, to the recreation center issue, is a little tough to figure. But Shew said most of the Kansas laws regarding using a petition to put an issue on the ballot call for signatures equaling 25 percent or more of the voter total from the last city election. In Lawrence's case, that would be around 2,000 signatures.

So bottomline, if folks really want to try to create some sort of binding petition-drive, they'll need to do a bit more research with Shew, the city attorney or both.

Reply 88 comments from Repaste Richard Heckler Consumer1 Jafs Just_another_bozo_on_this_bus Jackmckee Jack22 Water Workinghard Blue73harley and 12 others

Work to begin soon on 23rd and O’Connell traffic signal; developers and housing authority still working on plans for rent-controlled apartment complex for area

All you growth hawks who have had your eyes trained for so long on northwest Lawrence may want to look briefly to the east for a bit.

One of the more visible signs that growth is expected to come to an area soon will pop up at the intersection of 23rd and O’Connell: a traffic signal.

City officials have awarded a nearly $572,000 bid to King’s Construction Co. to begin work on improving the intersection, including adding a traffic signal. In addition to the signal, the work also will include concrete medians on 23rd Street and a left-turn lane for eastbound traffic on 23rd Street.

Work is expected to begin on Wednesday. Traffic on 23rd Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction periodically. The bulk of the work is expected to be completed by the end of March. But the traffic signal won’t be installed until June because there apparently is quite a backlog of traffic signal orders nationally. (I had heard somewhere that repairs related to Hurricane Sandy had caused a spike in traffic signal demand.)

Some of you may be confused about a left-turn lane for eastbound motorists on 23rd Street. Currently, if eastbound motorists turn left off of 23rd Street, you don’t get to much. That’s where the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant is located. But that 400-plus acre piece of property has big plans for the future. The city is working to convert it into a new business and industrial park. A new lighted intersection will be needed to get traffic in and out of the business park, and that intersection will be 23rd and O’Connell.

But make no mistake, the property on the south side of 23rd Street will benefit from the improved intersection as well. Eventually, that area may become the city’s next commercial area. The southeast corner of the intersection is zoned for significant retail development. Tractor Supply Co. opened a store out there, but the retail growth to follow has been a bit like a parade of tractors — kind of slow to develop.

Instead, expect to see some more housing in the area, which probably will lead to more commercial development. On Monday, the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will hear a request to rezone 10.5 acres on the south side of the intersection for residential development. (It already is zoned for single-family residential but it is being rezoned to another type of single family residential. From the RS-7 zoning category to the RS-5, if you are scoring at home.)

There’s also some replatting going on in the area. I could go all technical on you here and drop some cool planning terms on your head (all planning terms are cool, right) but what it comes down to is the development group that owns the land is fine tuning some plans to actually get ready to build some houses out there.

“We’re mostly excited about the city’s new investment out there,” Bill Newsome, who heads the Fairfield Farms development group, told me recently.

He said plans call for 38 new entry-level homes to be built at the property, basically on the portion of ground that is south of 25th Terrace and just a bit east of O’Connell. If you remember, Lawrence’s Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church bought the eight acres of ground right along O’Connell.

Newsome said his group has begun talking to builders, and there is optimism about starting a new housing development in the area because there’s hope the Farmland redevelopment will create new jobs nearby. In other words, maybe some folks want to live close to where they work.

“There is a lot of synergy coming together with the new business park,” Newsome said.

Even if the new jobs don’t materialize right away, the area could be ripe for new housing development because of the pending completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway. The eastern interchange of the SLT will be just down K-10. Suddenly, the entire Prairie Park neighborhood not only has good access to the Kansas City metro area, but it also will have a pretty easy drive into the Topeka area as well. Plus, don't forget about the metropolis of Ottawa to the south. The trafficway will make it pretty easy for neighborhood residents to connect to U.S. Highway 59 as well.

There is one more project to keep your eyes on at the intersection. As we reported in October, the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority is considering teaming up with Newsome’s group to build more than 100 rent-controlled apartments near the intersection.

I checked in with Shannon Oury, director of the Housing Authority, in the last couple of days and she told me her board is still giving serious consideration to the idea of a 128-unit apartment complex.

No final decision has been made yet. Oury said her board and staff are still trying to figure out some of financing and taxing issues that would be part of the public-private partnership.

The project, somewhat like the Poehler project in East Lawrence, would use federal tax credits to help build the complex. The use of those tax credits and the involvement of the Housing Authority would ensure that the apartment units remain rent-controlled for the long term. A study commissioned by the Housing Authority estimated a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment would rent for $560 a month; a two-bedroom, two-bath for $715 a month; and a three-bedroom, two-bath unit for $835 a month.

Oury said the project would be targeted to working families that have incomes that would qualify for the rent-controlled program. The study indicated those incomes ranges would fall between about $33,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the family.

Oury said even with the new rent-controlled development in East Lawrence, there is still a need for more of the projects. She noted that Westgate Apartments, 4641 W. Sixth St., recently left the rent-controlled housing program. Its requirements under the tax credit it used to be constructed recently ended, which meant its 72 units left the affordable housing program, Oury said.

Oury said she expects her board to make some decisions on whether to move forward with the project this spring. But thus far, there is optimism about its prospects.

“I would say we feel very positive about it,” Oury said. “So far, we have not seen anything that makes us feel skeptical.”

A preliminary rendering of what a proposed rent-controlled apartment complex near 23rd and O'Connell may look like.

A preliminary rendering of what a proposed rent-controlled apartment complex near 23rd and O'Connell may look like. by Chad Lawhorn

Reply 21 comments from Richard Heckler Sharon Nottingham Jim Schilling Bearded_gnome Nikki May Oletimer Enlightenment Smitty Catalano Flyin_squirrel and 2 others

City clears the way for traffic-calming devices to be installed on 27th Street between Iowa and Louisiana

Here’s a free tip for all those people looking for a new business venture in the future: An auto alignment shop — or maybe a muffler repair business — near the corner of 27th and Iowa streets.

It is beginning to look more likely that the busy stretch of 27th Street between Iowa and Louisiana streets may get a series of speed humps or other traffic-calming devices.

The city has agreed to add 27th Street to the list of areas in the city that are in need of traffic calming. Getting added to that list, however, doesn’t mean traffic-calming devices are going to be built on the street in the near future.

The city currently has 17 such areas on the list, and some have been on the list for years. The city basically says it will start building the projects as funding becomes available, and funding for traffic-calming projects has been a bit hit or miss in previous city budgets.

But David Woosley, the city’s traffic engineer, told city commissioners recently that the combination of traffic speed, volume and the number of pedestrians along 27th Street causes the stretch of road to rise to No. 1 on the city’s list of traffic-calming priorities.

So, it will be worth watching if funding develops. I would guess that the next time 27th Street gets repaved that the city strongly will consider adding speed humps as part of the repaving project. The city has found the traffic-calming work becomes cheaper if it can be incorporated with another project.

Traffic calming on 27th Street will be significant. The city is estimating that the one mile stretch of street will need about six traffic-calming devices in order to be effective. The city is estimating the cost of the project to be about $90,000.

City commissioners briefly discussed the traffic-calming request — which came from a leader of the Indian Hills Neighborhood Association — and approved the idea on a 5-0 vote.

I have a particular member of my household who uses that stretch of road to get to the shops on South Iowa Street from time to time to time to time. (You get the idea.) I’m sure speed humps would create some noise in my house. Perhaps not slower speeds, but noise — like the kind you hear when your muffler has been knocked off by a speed hump.

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