Posts tagged with Lawrence Government

Petition to stop downtown parking garage expansion draws less than 15 percent support

There soon will be about 70 more ways for my wife to get an overtime parking ticket in downtown Lawrence, and a majority of downtown property owners seem happy about it.

In fact, a pretty big majority, it seems.

If you remember, city commissioners have been waiting for the results of a protest petition before deciding whether to add another level — or about 70 spaces — to the proposed parking garage that will be adjacent to the expanded Lawrence Public Library at Seventh and Vermont streets.

Downtown property owners were given a chance to kill the project via petition because downtown property owners will pay for about half of the approximately $840,000 addition through special assessments on their property tax bills.

Well, the results of the petition are in, and who said downtown can’t be united on an issue? Depending on how you slice it, the petition only drew signatures from 12 to 13 percent of the private property owners in the district. Owners of 23 of the 194 privately owned properties in the district signed the petition, which is about 11.9 percent. If you look at it from a square footage standpoint, the property owners who protested the additional expense control about 13.6 percent of the privately owned square footage in town — by lot size — according to calculations done by the city.

All this is to say that city commissioners probably will act next week to formally approve the extra level of parking for the garage project. Mayor Bob Schumm — who is a downtown property owner and who did not sign the petition — told me that is what he’ll ask his fellow commissioners to do.

“I think this is a real opportunity for us to accomplish more parking in downtown and for us to do so at a pretty good discount,” Schumm said.

The city contends the extra 70 spaces of parking will be cheaper to build now than at any point in the future because the work will be done as part of the library project, which already was designed to include 250 spaces in a new parking garage. The extra level will bring the garage’s total to about 320 spaces (my high school math teacher would be so proud of me right now). The project will produce quite a bit more parking in the area than exists today. The surface parking lot that will be replaced by the garage had about 125 spaces. So, that means there will be an extra . . . (never mind, the batteries in my calculator went dead.)

Schumm said he expected a protest petition on the parking project wouldn’t gather much support. The city has structured the project so that non-profit property owners — such as churches — don’t have to pay the special assessment. The city at large will pick up those costs. Property owners who provide off-street parking — even though the city’s code doesn’t require it in downtown — also will be given a credit for that portion of the property.

Property owners basically will pay about 30 cents per square foot on property they own — which is based on their lot size, not their building size. Property owners can pay the amount all at once, or have it spread out over 10 years worth of property tax bills with nominal interest.

For a petition to be successful, it likely was going to have to attract the support of several of the big time landlords in downtown. It attracted some but not all. Most notably neither Doug Compton nor the properties owned by the Fritzel family signed the petition. Properties owned by George and Judy Paley did sign the petition. Rand Allen, who owns a significant amount of property near the northeast corner of 11th and Massachusetts also signed, as did Rod Ernst, the hardware store owner who also owns several other buildings downtown. City Commissioner Mike Amyx — who owns a barbershop downtown — also signed the petition. He previously has voted against the parking garage expansion.

Work to prepare the parking lot for garage construction already has begun. City officials have said they hope to have at least part of the garage open by Memorial Day to accommodate the swimming season at the nearby Outdoor Aquatics Center.

Reply 8 comments from Chad Lawhorn Keith Richards Jackmckee Consumer1 Jack22 Clovis Sangrail

City staff prepares report on downtown properties that may become targets for redevelopment

Soon enough, you’ll start seeing big changes in downtown Lawrence. Construction work already is underway on a $19 million library expansion, work on a multistory hotel at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire should begin any day, and by summer work likely will be ongoing for a multistory apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire.

All that, though, may just be the beginning.

City commissioners have an innocuous looking item on their agenda tonight, but it may set the wheels in motion for a large amount of redevelopment in downtown in coming years.

On the city’s consent agenda is receipt of a report that outlines lots in downtown Lawrence that could be prime candidates for development. Among the pieces of property being highlighted are 11 of the city-owned surface parking lots in downtown.

The idea behind future redevelopment of the city-owned parking lots is simple: The city could enter into public-private partnerships where developers will build new retail or residential or office uses on the parking lots, but also would build public parking. The public parking might be in an above-ground garage, or more likely, in an underground parking garage. The city likely would insist on the new development providing at least as much, but probably more, parking than exists today.

The report on tonight’s agenda won’t finalize anything. It merely will get the ball rolling. If city commissioners approve their staff’s recommendation, the item will be referred to the city’s Historic Resources Commission and the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission for review. Ultimately, the city will need to make some type of statement that it supports more density — which in this case equals taller buildings — on New Hampshire and Vermont streets.

Given that in another year there likely will be at least four relatively new buildings that are five stories or taller on New Hampshire (Hobbs Taylor, the 901 Building, the hotel, and the apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire), the City Commission has already spoken on the issue.

But previously they’ve spoken in a piecemeal-fashion, one project at time. What seems to be coming down the pike is a broader plan that expresses support for the idea of more multistory building construction. This plan even will go so far as to highlight specific lots that may be appropriate for such development. The result likely would be that the multistory building trend would continue on New Hampshire Street and spread to Vermont Street.

You can click here to see the 39 parcels that city staff members have identified as having some potential for redevelopment. They’ve ranked the potential from low to high.

Most of the city parking lots, including the ones in the 1000, 900, 800 and 700 blocks of Vermont Street rank high. The same goes for city parking lots in the 800 and 700 blocks of New Hampshire Street. City parking lots even a little farther east get into the action. The city parking lot that has frontage on the 800 block of Rhode Island Street is listed as having high potential.

The report doesn’t list a lot of potential redevelopment on Massachusetts Street. Three properties are listed, the old Allen Press property at 1040 Massachusetts, the small Einstein Bros Bagel building that is next to a private parking lot at 1026 Massachusetts, and the vacant lot at 705 Massachusetts that is next to The Eldridge Hotel. We recently reported that a group associated with The Eldridge finalized a deal to purchase that property.

The report also lists a few other private properties as having high potential, including the private parking lots the Fritzel family has in the 600 block of Vermont Street near the Joseph A. Bank and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce building. The U.S. Post Office Building at 645 Vermont also is listed in the high category. All of the other buildings on the west side of the 600 block of Vermont Street, which include the Dempsey’s Burger building, Luminious Neon and the First State Bank & Trust building are listed as having medium potential.

It will be interesting to see how the Historic Resources Commission and neighborhoods near downtown treat the idea of a plan that could lead to large scale redevelopment of the area, and many more public-private partnerships in the future.

But as I said, don’t expect much to happen on this at tonight’s meeting. Tonight’s meeting largely is reserved for another type of public-private partnership: Land use hearings for the proposed Rock Chalk Park project in northwest Lawrence.

Reply 13 comments from Kansasliberal Flyin_squirrel Richard Heckler Just_another_bozo_on_this_bus Parrothead8 Captainzeep Kat Christian Eugehne Normandin Thesychophant Leslie Soden

Lawrence attorney likely to file for seat on Lawrence City Commission

Another day, another Lawrence City Commission candidate.

I reported yesterday that I expect Dr. Terry Riordan to file for a seat on the commission, and I still think that will happen today.

But now I’ve also been told that a Lawrence attorney is set to throw his name into the mix as well.

Michael Rost — a Lawrence resident who works as an attorney for an insurance and financial services company in Topeka — told me he also plans to file the necessary paperwork today.

Rost, 27, said he’ll seek to bring a dose of conservatism to the City Commission when it comes to financial matters, especially incentives for projects. Rost said he followed the issue over whether the city should allow tax dollars to be used to help pay for parking and infrastructure at the recently approved multistory hotel project at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

“I will be very, very conservative about what I think the city should do with taxpayer money,” Rost said. “My perspective would be that you would have to have a very compelling project that benefits everyone in the city to give taxpayer money to help a project like that.

“On a project like the hotel, I would say that if it is a good project that makes sense and makes money, it should be able to stand on its own feet.”

Rost grew up in Wichita, but came to Lawrence in 2003 to do his undergraduate work at KU. He moved to Topeka to earn a law degree from Washburn, but soon moved back to Lawrence. He currently works as an attorney for IMA Financial in Topeka.

While at KU, Rost was part of the KU Track and Field team. Rost, though, said he doesn’t yet have a firm opinion on whether the city should be investing in a proposed Rock Chalk Park that would include the city building a new $25 million recreation center, and KU and Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel building a new track and field stadium and other amenities.

“I like the idea of synergy between the university and the city,” Rost said. “I like that aspect of it, but in terms of some of the specifics about how it would be built and leased, I don’t feel comfortable commenting on that.”

Likely the issue won’t be one City Commission candidates have to deal with. At its current pace, city commissioners are expected to take the key votes to commit the city to the project by mid-February. The new commission won’t take office until April.

In terms of other issues, Rost said he hopes to provide a voice to commuters in the community, and he will emphasize the importance of the commission protecting the livability of Lawrence.

“I think there are maybe some different ideas about the direction of Lawrence, its appeal and what type of community we want to be,” Rost said. “I have seen a lot about trying to make Lawrence some type of tourist destination or Legends West or something. That has struck me as not being in line with the things that I appreciate about the community.”

If Rost and Riordan both file today as expected, there will be four official candidates in the race. Rob Chestnut, a former Lawrence mayor and a chief financial officer for a Topeka publishing company, has filed the a paperwork. So too has Scott Criqui, a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission and an executive with a Lawrence-based home healthcare company.

Indications are that City Commissioner Mike Amyx will file for re-election to the commission. City Commissioner Hugh Carter, however, has chosen not to seek re-election, instead focusing on his new job with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. City Commissioner Aron Cromwell has not announced his intentions, but there are indications he will not seek a second term.

Reply 24 comments from Michaelarost Bearded_gnome Katara Thesychophant Jackmckee irvan moore Catalano David Holroyd Old_oread_phart Cant_have_it_both_ways and 1 others

Lawrence Chamber of Commerce takes official stance in favor of $25M recreation center, proposed Rock Chalk Park

It sure feels like the proposal to build a $25 million city recreation center as part of a public-private Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence is entering a new phase.

Another large community group has taken a formal position on the project. This time, it is the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, and the city’s largest business organization is supportive of the project.

“The entire Lawrence community will benefit from this world-class facility,” Doug Gaumer, chair of the chamber's board of directors, said in a statement. “The Rock Chalk Park Sports Park project will help build our community’s infrastructure and enhance the amenities and quality of life that make Lawrence a desirable place to live and work.”

If you remember last week, the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods — the city’s largest neighborhood organization — issued an official position that it thought the city should hold a citywide election on the idea of whether the city should proceed with the $25 million regional recreation center portion of the project. It also expressed concerns that the recreation center project is proposed go through a bidding process that deviates from the city’s typical bidding policy.

The chamber in its statement on Monday said it does not see the need for a citywide election.

“We understand that no tax increase will be necessary for construction of this project and therefore no public vote on the issue is necessary,” Gaumer said in the statement. “We urge the city approve the necessary zoning and special use permit necessary to build Rock Chalk Sports Park, and provide a much-needed and long-overdue amenity for its citizens.”

City commissioners are scheduled to vote on the zoning and the special use permit for the project at their Tuesday evening meeting. Tuesday’s vote, however, doesn’t yet commit the city to build the $25 million recreation center portion of the project.

Commissioners won’t make any commitments to build the recreation center at the site until they have been presented with formal agreements between KU entities and a private company led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel, who are all part of the proposed partnership for the park.

The city is projecting those agreements will be completed by the commission’s Feb. 19 meeting.

Reply 35 comments from Just_another_bozo_on_this_bus Gccs14r irvan moore David Holroyd Minimadoff Kiferghost No_thanks Catalano Water Blue73harley and 9 others

Work on new West Lawrence Starbucks progressing; developers still looking for other tenants for the building

“Wwwwhen is that ddddrive-through Ssstarbbbucks going to open?”

That’s the type of jittery e-mails and comments I’ve been getting regarding a new drive-through Starbuck’s in West Lawrence.

It has been more than a year now since we first reported that a Starbucks was slated to be built on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Champion Lane, yet there are still people having to go through the indignity of getting out of their vehicles to get their morning Starbucks fix.

If you have driven along West Sixth Street lately, you may have noticed a new building has been constructed along the stretch of road in front of Free State High School. That’s the Starbucks site.

I checked in with Lawrence attorney Bill Fleming, who represents the development group on the project, and he confirmed the company turned the space over to Starbucks in mid-December. Fleming, though, didn’t have any word on when Starbucks may be completed with their interior work, which would allow the store to open. In talking with other folks, however, 60 days sounds like a reasonable number, so I would keep an eye out for Starbucks to open in February.

One other thing about the project: Some folks have seen the building and are under the impression that Lawrence is getting some sort of super-sized Starbucks. (And trust me, Starbucks knows how to supersize. I once mistakenly ordered a Venti, and had to ask whether it came with swimming trunks.) But no, Starbucks will not occupy the entire building on Sixth Street.

Fleming said Starbucks will lease about 1,900 square feet of the building, which will leave about 3,000 square feet of space that could be taken by one larger tenant or two smaller ones.

“We think a sandwich shop or something like that would make sense, but we’re not in negotiations with anyone right now,” Fleming said.

The area, though, is gaining momentum. Work is well underway on the new building for Theatre Lawrence, which will be just a few steps from the Starbucks.

Yes, before you have a chance to ask, the Starbucks is in the special taxing district that helps pay for infrastructure in the Bauer Farms Development. Projects in the district charge an extra penny on every $1 in sales made in the district.

I’ll let you know if I hear a specific date for the Starbucks opening.

Reply 12 comments from David Holroyd Gccs14r Livinginlawrence Frankfussman Richard Heckler Keith Richards Clovis Sangrail Larrynative

Lawrence physician Terry Riordan likely to file for seat on City Commission

The clock is now really ticking on folks who are thinking about running for one of three seats up for election on the Lawrence City Commission.

The deadline for candidates to file is noon Jan. 22. For several weeks now I’ve been hearing a new name as a potential candidate for the race: Dr. Terry Riordan.

I haven’t yet talked to Riordan, but my understanding is he is likely to announce his candidacy on Tuesday.

Riordan would go into the race with many Lawrence folks knowing his name. Riordan has been a longtime pediatrician in the city. Riordan also has some City Hall experience. He was a member and chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission in the mid-2000s.

Other folks may know Riordan and his wife, Elaine, as the owners of one of the more unique homes in the city. They own the large house in the 1600 block of Tennessee Street often referred to as the Maupintour Mansion or the Ludington-Thacher House, if you are the type to be more historically accurate.

If Riordan does file as expected, he’ll be the third candidate in the race. Former Lawrence Mayor Rob Chestnut has filed, and so has Scott Criqui, a member of the city’s Human Relations Commission.

All indications are that current City Commissioner Mike Amyx will file for re-election, but he hasn’t done so yet. Current City Commissioner Hugh Carter says he won’t seek re-election, instead focusing on his new job with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. City Commissioner Aron Cromwell also is up for re-election. He hasn’t announced his plans, but there are indications he is leaning against seeking another term.

I think there is still an effort out there by some to recruit a female candidate to the race, but I haven’t heard of any takers yet. During the last election two years ago, no female candidates ran for a seat on the commission, and a woman hasn’t served on the commission since Sue Hack ended an eight-year stint on the commission in 2009.

If seven or more candidates file for the three seats on the commission — they are all at-large seats — there will be a primary election on Feb. 26 to narrow the field to six candidates. The general election will be on April 2.

Reply 6 comments from Dountoothers Barbara Burket Seriouscat Flyin_squirrel Kontum1972 Leslie Soden

News and notes from Saturday morning’s forum on proposed recreation center and Rock Chalk Park

How about a special Saturday edition of Town Talk.

The citizens group Cadre Lawrence hosted a public forum on the proposed recreation center and Rock Chalk Park project for northwest Lawrence Saturday morning.

Not a whole lot of new information came out of the forum. The panel was made up entirely of supporters of the project, so it wasn’t the type of event where there was much back and forth. Members of the audience also had to submit questions on note cards, so there weren’t many opportunities for the public to voice their opinions on the project.

But here’s a quick look at a few comments made by panel participants.

• Sean Lester, senior associate athletics director for KU, made one of the more definitive statements of the day. He said KU will not be allowing any concerts to be held in the proposed 10,000-seat track and field stadium. He said the risk to the world-class track and field surfaces would just be too great.

But other speakers made it clear that there could be other non-athletic events happening in the Rock Chalk Park. City Commissioner Mike Dever said the community shouldn’t be closing doors on future opportunities when it comes to non-athletic events at the facility.

The parking lot itself — it will have more than 1,400 paved spaces — is large enough to accommodate large events on its own. Think of some of the events that have closed downtown streets in the past. The idea of street dances with adult beverages have become popular in downtown in the last few years. Whether some of those events would migrate to the new location, I’m not sure.

Also not mentioned Saturday morning is just what the mover-and-shakers of this project have in mind with a future amphitheater and an indoor arena. Neither are included in phase one of the project, but there is space mapped out for each of those uses in future phases. Both of those uses seem to indicate that there has been some thought given to the area becoming a concert venue. The information submitted to the city shows a future arena would have “3,000 seats for sporting events and an additional 800 seats for concerts.”

The project leaders seem to be skittish about talking about non-athletic events at the site, I suppose because it could increase opposition from some neighbors. (Although neighbors are few at the moment.) My sense is, however, there would be plenty of people who would be excited about the area becoming a concert venue.

Lawrence is a music town, and an ability to hold larger-scale concerts would add to the economic development impact of the facility. Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe the community would revolt against such an idea.

• Lester also confirmed that KU eventually will look to sell naming rights for the park. “Who ever came up with the idea of Rock Chalk Park, that is great,” Lester said. “But we would love to put someone’s name in front of that.”

KU, however, won’t have any ability to sell naming rights for the city’s recreation center. City commissioners would control that process.

• Jana Dawson, a member of the city’s parks and recreation advisory board, said it would cost the city more money to build a recreation center on property the city already owns near Wakarusa and Overland Drive in northwest Lawrence.

That statement probably needs some qualifiers. If you were to build exactly the same size of facility, there are numbers that suggest that is accurate. (Although, it is unclear how fully the city has studied its options at that site.)

But it is worth remembering that in November 2011, city commissioners expressed support for an idea that would build a five gym recreation center with a wellness center, walking track and fitness area for $12 million in public money and about $3 million in private donations.

Since that time the project has grown in both size and cost. The current proposal has eight gyms, an indoor turf area, outdoor lighted tennis courts, a gymnastics area and other features. The cost is now $25 million, plus several million dollars in interest the city will pay on the 20-year bonds it will have to issue to fund the project.

What has remained the same is the city's plans to pay for it through proceeds from an existing sales tax. The money has become available because the city is retiring debt on several other projects, including the Eagle Bend Golf Course and the Lawrence-Douglas County Community Health building. (A previous version of this article also listed the Indoor Aquatics Center. That was a mistake. That debt already has been paid off.)

City Manager David Corliss said the need to have more than five gyms could be supported by national statistics. City officials frequently quote a national statistic that indicates a city of Lawrence’s size ought to have about 18 more gyms than it does.

Corliss also said there were questions about whether the smaller facility would provide much of an economic development benefit to the city in terms of attracting tournaments to town. It should be noted, though, that when the city was discussing the idea of a five gym facility, commissioners were enthusiastic about its ability to attract tournaments to the city. Plus, the nearby New Century Fieldhouse in Johnson County is an 88,000-square-foot facility with four gyms and an indoor soccer field. Officials there have had success in attracting tournaments to the facility. We’ve previously reported that when it opened in June 2011, the project — which renovated a warehouse — had a price tag of $8.2 million plus interest costs.

• City Commissioner Mike Dever clearly has become one of the more passionate supporters of the project. He made a closing statement where he tried to give assurances to the public that the city was poised to make a good investment with the project.

“I know the vision of this facility scares some people,” Dever said. “It is a large project. But I think the city is in as good a position as it can possibly be to take on this project.”

He said it is common to read national publicity about how Lawrence has as rich a basketball history as any community in the country. Yet, he said the city hasn’t done enough to capitalize on it.

“We’re told that the history of basketball is as robust here as it is anywhere, yet we don’t even have enough courts for our kids to play and practice on,” he said. “Our goal on this project has been to measure twice and cut once. We have measured and measured and measured.

“I can tell you that the sum of the parts of this project are more valuable than the individual pieces.”

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the project in a more traditional public hearing format at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, as commissioners consider zoning issues and a special use permit for the project.

Reply 30 comments from Richard Heckler Lawrence Morgan Kiferghost The_big_b Thesychophant Nikki May Joe Hyde Just_another_bozo_on_this_bus Foodboy Jim Fisher and 5 others

Land transfers for week ending Dec. 31, including sales of apartment complexes and Massachusetts Street property

As far as New Year’s resolutions go, this one is pretty lame, but I’m going to try to be more consistent in posting weekly Douglas County land transfers. (Yes, it was kind of awkward shouting that resolution as I sprayed Champagne at the crack of midnight while at my neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party.)

Before we get going, though, a disclaimer: Unless otherwise noted, most of this information is just me relaying information from various public documents from the Douglas County Courthouse and the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. In an effort to be timely, it is not always possible to contact everyone involved. It is not always easy to ascertain what is going on with a property just by looking at the documents, so I would read these listings as a first draft of activity in the local real estate market. On particularly interesting cases, I’ll try to follow up and report back in the coming days.

So, here we go. This week did produce several interesting sales/transfers of note:

• It looks like a California-based company has made a major purchase of several apartment properties owned by companies led by Lawrence businessman Tim Stultz.

The most recent land transfers show that North Creek Investors LLC purchased apartment properties at 4100 W. 24th Place, 1501 George Williams Way, and several addresses in the 400 block of Eisenhower Drive and the 5200 block of Eisenhower Lane, which is in the developing area just north and west of Congressional and Overland drives.

The 1501 George Williams Way property is listed on the Web as the leasing office for the Ironwood Court apartments, while the 4100 W. 24th Place property is listed as the Remington Square Apartments.

As for North Creek Investors LLC, documents from the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office list it as being a multifamily management company based in Walnut Creek, Calif., and managed by businessman Mark D. Hall. I have a call into Tim Stultz, who has been one of the larger apartment developers in the city, to see if he will continue to play a role in the properties.

• It looks like there may be some activity at an old apartment building recently condemned by the city. In October, the city condemned a 24-unit apartment building at 1821 W. 26th St.

According to the land transfers, a new ownership group has purchased that building plus an adjacent apartment building at 1902 W. 26th St. The new group is called BlueJay Apartments Inc. According to documents from the secretary of state, Lawrence businessmen Timothy J. Allen, James H. Bruce and Rex Tedrow are the partners in the group. Previously, the properties were owned by a group led by Tedrow.

• It appears the vacant lot next to the Eldridge Hotel has changed hands. For years that lot has been owned by a group led by Lawrence investor Dale Miller. But according to the land transfers, the property at 705 and 707 Massachusetts Street — which on Google Maps appears to be the vacant lot just south of the hotel — has been transferred to a group led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel, who also leads the group that owns The Eldridge Hotel.

If you remember back in 2010, the hotel formally proposed an expansion of the Eldridge into the vacant lot. It called for a four-story building, 16 new hotel rooms, a restaurant and banquet space with a retractable roof and other features. But then the project never did materialize. Whether this is a sign that a project may get restarted on the property, I do not know.

• The shopping center that houses Hy-Vee, Applebee's and others at Sixth and Monterey Way showed up in the most recent land transfers. Monterey Partners LLC — which is owned by a group of Kansas City, Mo. trusts, led by the trust of metro area real estate leader Robert Johnson — has transferred the property to a new entity called Lawrence Monterey Investors LLC. That entity is so new that the Secretary of State’s Office only lists Scott Slabotsky, the managing director of the large metro accounting firm CBIZ Kansas City, as the organizer of the company. So, it is hard to know whether there actually has been a true change in ownership out there or whether this is just a corporate accounting thing. I’ll try to find out more in the coming days.

Click here to see a full list of the Douglas County land transfers for the week ending Dec. 31.

Reply 1 comment from Sdickens

Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods calls for public vote on recreation center project, expresses concern about bidding process; two public meetings set on project

Activity around a proposed $25 million city recreation center in northwest Lawrence is starting to heat up again.

The latest news: The city’s largest neighborhood group is now officially calling for a citywide election on the project and is expressing concerns that the proposed bidding process won’t adequately protect the public.

Board members of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods last night unanimously agreed to submit comments expressing concern about the proposed process to build a regional recreation center as part of a public-private sports park just north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

“As we see it, the project as proposed falls far short of the desired standard of public bidding and cost certification,” Laura Routh, the newly elected president of LAN told me this morning. “Under the conditions outlined thus far, we have no assurance that taxpayers will get full value for their money.”

LAN also took the position that a citywide election on the project should be held, “given the magnitude of the project and the resulting long-term debt to be incurred by taxpayers.”

Ruth also said LAN is concerned that the city hasn’t fully weighed the recreation center project against other needed city projects.

“LAN is concerned that the city has failed to fully assess this project’s impact on other needed priorities in our community,” Routh said.

It will be interesting to see if LAN’s position robs the project of any momentum at City Hall. Thus far, it appears the project has solid support from four of the five city commissioners. Commissioner Mike Amyx has been the only commissioner to express strong reservations. But LAN is the largest communitywide organization to express such concerns about the project.

Both opponents and supporters of the project will have a couple of opportunities to get engaged with the project in the coming days.

The citizen’s group Cadre Lawrence is hosting a public forum at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fire Station No. 5 at 19th and Iowa streets. The group has assembled a panel that currently consists of City Manager David Corliss, City Commissioner Mike Dever, Senior Associate Athletics Director Sean Lester and Paul Werner, a Lawrence architect for the project.

Cadre Lawrence is billing the event as an opportunity to get answers from people who “are actually in charge of the project.” But the panel doesn’t include Thomas Fritzel nor a representative from the KU Endowment Association, which will own the land and eventually transfer a portion of it over to the city. I think those entities, particularly Fritzel, are who members of the public want to hear from most.

Fritzel is the Lawrence businessman who is providing all the financing to build the KU facilities at the Rock Chalk Park site, and it recently was revealed that he ultimately will own the facilities that KU Athletics will use. As it is currently structured, Fritzel has the inside track to be the builder of the city’s $25 million recreation center through a process that deviates significantly from the city’s standard bidding process.

I think most people would agree that Fritzel is a key driving force in this proposed project, but near as I can tell, he has never publicly outlined his vision or what he sees as his role in the project either at a City Commission meeting or at a public forum.

The Cadre forum will be structured in a way that people can submit their questions via notecards, but it isn’t designed to be a forum where people can come to the microphone and deliver speeches about their thoughts on the project.

People will get that opportunity at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

City commissioners will take action to finalize the rezoning of the proposed site, and will get their first look at the special use permit application for the project. Commissioners will hold a public hearing on both of those items.

The details of the special use permit are basically as we have reported them in the past, so I won’t go over all that again. In summary, the main uses include the 181,000 square-foot recreation center, which will be owned by the city; and a track and field stadium, softball stadium, soccer field and other amenities that will be owned by a private group led by Fritzel. Those facilities primarily will be used by Kansas University Athletics, but officials have confirmed that Fritzel will have the ability to use the facilities for other events, if certain conditions are met.

The fact that Fritzel will own many of the facilities on the property was revealed to the public fairly late in the process. It will be interesting to see if that becomes an issue in the zoning and special use part of the project. The zoning for the proposed project is slated to be for “General Public and Institutional Uses.” At least one adjacent land owner to the project has questioned what conditions must be met in order for a private company to own the majority of the facilities on property zoned for public and institutional uses.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. Tuesday’s meeting essentially will clear the way for the Fritzel/KU facilities to proceed at the site. But commissioners aren’t yet taking action committing the city to the recreation center idea. That won’t happen until formal agreements between KU entities, Fritzel and the city are presented to commissioners for consideration.

Reply 44 comments from Richard Heckler George Lippencott Gl0ck0wn3r Foodboy Flyin_squirrel Water Taxpayer2 Just_another_bozo_on_this_bus Brian Iverson Scaramouchepart2 and 13 others

City says extra trash won’t count against households during post-holiday time period

Holiday season has been replaced by trash season in many Lawrence households.

Most of you surely know how it goes: For every pound in gifts you receive, you most likely have two pounds of packaging and gift wrapping to throw away.

And don’t even get me started about all the trash the holiday dinner produces — napkins, linens, tablecloths, ceiling tiles. (A holiday dinner with a 6-year-old and 9-year-old who know they can’t open presents until they finish their meal, can get a little messy.)

Lots of trash following the holiday season is nothing new, but what is new in Lawrence is the city’s trash system that requires households to use a city-mandated trash cart. Those carts only hold so much trash, and the city has said it expects households only to set out as much trash as will fit in the carts. But the city also has said it basically will give households three times a year where it can exceed those amounts. More than three times a year, though, may result in the city saying you need a larger cart or an additional cart. Those larger carts come with a larger monthly bill.

So, the question has been: Does this holiday season and all the trash it produces count against your three exemptions? The answer: No.

“We are the kinder, gentler, more understanding Solid Waste Division,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works. “We definitely understand people have visitors during the holidays and are going to have extra trash. We’re more than happy to take extra bags during the holiday season.”

Tammy Bennett, the assistant director of public works who oversees the day-to-day operations of the trash system, said solid waste employees won’t be keeping track of households that set out extra trash either this week or next week.

But Bennett said on most other weeks (move-out and move-in week likely will be exceptions), crews will be keeping records of households that set out more trash than can be contained in their cart.

“We feel like we have to keep track of it to be fair and accurate for everybody,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the department has come up with a slogan that summarizes the city’s policy on extra trash: Take it, tag it, switch it.

The first time a household puts out extra trash, crews simply will take it and move on. The second time, crews will take the trash but also leave a tag reminding the household of the city’s trash policy. The third time, crews will take it but also leave a note indicating the city would be in touch about switching the household to a larger cart.

Bennett, though, said the department was committed to be understanding of special circumstances. For instance, one Town Talk reader mentioned to me how her household had a lot of extra trash because of sewage backup. Bennett said in cases like that, a household can call the city’s solid waste division — 832-3032 — and explain the situation, and the event wouldn’t be counted as one of the household’s three exemptions.

Bennett said the city plans to keep track of the extra trash on a calendar year basis, but she said the system is subject to change as the city learns more about it.

“We have to make sure we are getting it right for the customer,” Bennett said. “Our main goal in this is we want to make sure that customers have the right size container for the majority of the year.”

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