We reported a few weeks ago that the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board had recommended that the unnamed park near the city fire training facility at 19th and Haskell be named Firefighters Remembrance Park, and that it have a plaque recognizing the late Jim McSwain, who served as Lawrence’s fire chief for 27 years.
Well, city commissioners took up the idea last week and tweaked the proposal. They approved a motion to name the park “Chief Jim McSwain Park.” The sign also will include a line that says “Dedicated to all Lawrence firefighters.”
Mayor Bob Schumm suggested the change, and Commissioner Mike Amyx immediately threw his support behind the idea. Both Schumm and Amyx served on the City Commission for many years while McSwain was chief.
I’m told there aren’t any immediate plans for major additions at the park, although city officials are considering the site as a possible location for a community garden.
We reported a few weeks ago that East Lawrence Neighborhood leader Leslie Soden was strongly considering a run for the Lawrence City Commission in the upcoming April election.
Well, Soden was, but she no longer is. Soden confirmed to me that she has decided against a run in 2013. Soden is probably best known in the community as being the former president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association who led the opposition to the proposed multi-story hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.
Soden told me that she has decided to use the next couple of years to focus on her recent appointment to the Joint Economic Development Council.
But Soden said she is disappointed that, so far, no woman has stepped forward to run for the City Commission. There currently is not a female commissioner, and hasn’t been one since Sue Hack left the commission four years ago. In fact, no woman even ran for a seat during the election two years ago.
I know there are people out there trying to recruit a strong female candidate for the 2013 election. Multiple sources have told me that Jana Dawson, a Lawrence banker who has been a big proponent of the city’s proposed regional recreation center, has been approached. But Dawson told me just today that work commitments will not allow her to run in 2013. Sharon Spratt, the longtime CEO of Cottonwood Inc., also has been approached. But I’ve been told she also hasn’t made a commitment to run.
Planning commission recommends approval of permit for sports complex/rec center, which now contemplates hosting non-athletic events
They didn’t exactly break out in the Rock Chalk chant, but the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on Monday night did recommend approval of a key special use permit for the proposed Rock Chalk Sports Park near the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
Planning commissioners voted 6-3 to recommend approval for the proposed sports complex, which would combine Kansas University facilities with a city-owned mega recreation center.
The special use permit spells out the general uses at the site, and they are much as we have reported them over the past several months: A 10,000-seat track and field stadium, a 2,500-seat soccer field, a 1,000-seat softball stadium and a 28,000-square-foot indoor training center plus a 14,000-square-foot area for an indoor softball field. All those facilities would be university-owned.
The city-owned facilities would include a 181,000-square-foot recreation center/youth field house and eight, outdoor lighted tennis courts.
The plan also shows a host of other future improvements that could be contemplated by the university at some point. They include: A 3,800-seat indoor arena that could accommodate sporting events and concerts; a 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater; eight tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility; and a lacrosse field.
All the items are still subject to tweaking, but the general outline of the project is starting to become more solid. The SUP application does make one thing clear: Rock Chalk Park will need a major variance from the city’s parking standards.
According to the city staff report reviewing the project, the various uses of Rock Chalk Park would require 5,244 parking spaces under the city’s current code. The plan proposes to provide 1,454 paved parking spaces plus another 700 unpaved spaces for overflow parking.
The city’s planning director, though, said the project makes a good case for receiving an exemption from the code. It is unlikely uses will be occurring simultaneously at all facilities in the park. A parking study estimates that 520 spaces would be needed to handle a typical day at the recreation center plus accommodate a soccer match at the facility. About 1,000 spaces would be need to accommodate a large basketball or volleyball tournament plus either a softball or soccer event.
The city’s review of the project, however, acknowledges there likely will be some events that the proposed parking won’t be able to accommodate. The proposed parking is estimated to accommodate an event of about 6,400 people. The track and field stadium, however, is designed to seat 10,000 people.
The city’s planning staff is recommending the project be allowed to proceed with the proposed parking because the large events won’t be frequent, and a plan can be developed to provide shuttles to the event. The city mentioned deals might be reached to run shuttles from Free State High School or from the KU Park and Ride Lot.
Who knows whether the Kansas Relays or perhaps a Kansas high school state track meet will ever fill the stadium, but the special use permit also brings up the possibility of the site hosting non-athletic events. The city and KU haven’t laid out any specific plans for what type of non-athletic events they might be interested in, but the staff report provides a few examples: Music concerts; festivals; BBQ cook-offs; farmers markets; racing and vehicle exhibitions, including BMX and Motocross racing and truck and tractor pulls. The idea of non-sports related events seemed to be part of the reason why the SUP drew three negative votes on Monday. The city is proposing that any non-athletic event receive a special events permit from the city. Each such a permit would have to be approved by the City Commission. But some planners argued that there should be a more rigorous notification process to let neighbors of the sports complex know an event permit application has been filed.
Commissioners Deron Belt, Jon Josserand and Bryan Culver voted against the SUP on Monday.
The Planning Commission’s recommendation now goes to the Lawrence City Commission, which will consider giving final approval to the SUP. A date for that hearing hasn’t yet been set.
City commissioners, though, will be taking action tonight on the proposed zoning of the property. Commissioners are scheduled to approve rezoning for 90 acres from Agricultural to General Public and Institutional Uses. Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.
City receives four proposals for citywide, curbside recycling program; officials hope to keep monthly costs below $5
Lawrence city officials haven’t forgotten about the idea of a curbside recycling program. A state law still is in place that stops the city from starting a new program prior to June 2014, but city officials have been spending a lot of time on the idea recently.
Sources tell me that a committee of city officials and a couple of members of the city’s Solid Waste Task Force spent seven hours last week listening to proposals from four companies or entities wanting to be involved in a proposed curbside recycling program in Lawrence.
City Manager David Corliss told me he was “cautiously optimistic” the proposals would produce a workable program for the city.
Corliss didn’t get into details, but another source told me that — at first glance — it appears the companies are putting together proposals that would offer weekly curbside recycling services at or below the $5 per month price point that some city officials have indicated would be acceptable.
But the details on this one will be important. For example, I haven’t heard whether the proposals included fuel escalator clauses, which would allow the monthly price to vary, depending on the price of diesel fuel.
“We want to make sure we completely understand all of the proposals before we make any recommendations,” Corliss said. “Each proposal has some interesting aspects.”
According to my source, the four entities that have submitted proposals are: Deffenbaugh Industries out of Kansas City; Waste Management, which is a major player in the Topeka market; Hamm Companies, which is the city’s current landfill provider; and a proposal put together by Lawrence’s own sanitation division.
Deffenbaugh and Waste Management are prepared to both collect and process the recycled materials. Hamm has proposed that the city would collect materials, but Hamm would build a new processing facility to handle the Lawrence materials. The city proposal calls for city crews to collect the materials, which then would be processed at a privately owned facility. Corliss confirmed the city is not proposing to build its own processing facility, which easily can be a multimillion-dollar project.
Under all of the proposals, the city would be responsible for handling the billing for the new service. The monthly amount would be added onto trash bills of city residents and businesses. As it is currently structured, every household would be required to pay for the service, whether they want it or not. City officials previously have said that is the way to ensure the service is delivered in the most efficient manner, and it helps the city boost its recycling rate, which has been a goal of all this.
City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will be taking a procedural step that keeps this process moving along. Commissioners are being asked to formally adopt a curbside recycling plan. But the plan is written in a pretty general way that doesn’t tie the city’s hands too much. Importantly, it also allows the city to back out of the idea, if it finds the project will cost too much.
Among details the plan does spell out are:
• Residents will be provided a special cart to set out recyclable materials. Residents won’t be required to do any sorting of materials. The plan doesn’t specify whether haulers have to accept glass. In the past, the city has said working glass into the program may be difficult.
• Where it is not feasible to provide a cart to a resident, such as people who live in apartment complexes, those residents will have access to “recycling stations,” which are cluster of recycling carts or Dumpsters.
• The city will consider plans that provide either weekly collection of recycling or every-other-week collection.
• A program should be designed with the goal of increasing the citywide recycling rate to 50 percent by 2020. The city has been changing how it figures its recycling rate, but previously the rate has been in the 30 percent range.
• A plan should be developed to minimize “displacement and economic impact to current recycling collectors.” There are about a half-dozen small, private companies that provide the service in Lawrence. The plan says the city will evaluate proposals, in part, on how well the city’s chosen provider works with those existing companies.
This is where the plan may get trickier than that pyramid of beer cans you have built in your garage waiting for the city to start a curbside program.
Jim Tuchscherer, owner of Home Recycling, said neither Deffenbaugh or Waste Management has contacted him about how his 13-year-old business might be incorporated into a citywide system.
The city of Lawrence has contacted Tuchscherer about its idea, but Tuchscherer hasn’t liked what he’s heard. Tuchscherer said the city is proposing that the recycling companies be allowed to keep their current customers but not be allowed to add new ones.
“I’ve told the city that I’m not opposed to increasing recycling, but I am opposed to the city voting to put me out of business,” Tuchscherer said.
Tuchscherer said he thinks the fair thing for the city to do would be to buy out his business and the other small recycling companies that operate in the city. I haven’t heard any serious talk of that happening, however, at City Hall.
Tuchscherer said he doesn't think the city will find a way to successfully incorporate the small companies into a citywide plan.
“I don’t think there is a workable option,” Tuchscherer said. “I’m sure Waste Management and Deffenbaugh have figured that out too.”
Assuming commissioners pass the plan at Tuesday’s meeting, the next big action step is expected in January, when commissioners will be presented summaries of the proposals presented by the four entities.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
I’m surfing my AOL account to try to figure out what has gotten Lawrence consumers so motivated these days. I figure it must be those new Discman portable CD players or maybe the Digimon craze.
What’s that, you say? We’re not in the 1990s anymore? My wife will tell you I have a wardrobe that says otherwise, but a new set of numbers makes it easy to get confused.
New retail sales numbers from Lawrence City Hall, show that sales tax numbers are growing at their fastest pace since 1998.
Through November, Lawrence consumers have tallied $1.25 billion worth of sales in 2012. That’s up from $1.17 billion compared to the same period a year ago. The 6.3 percent growth rate is the best since the carefree days of 1998, when we were preoccupied by a stain on a White House intern’s dress, and two home run sluggers who were proving how healthy eating and a few over-the-counter vitamin supplements could make you a new man. (That was the takeaway from the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa era, wasn’t it?)
If the growth rate holds up through the end of the year, it will mark the second straight year sales tax numbers have grown significantly. It also will help erase the memories of 2009 and 2010 when consumers ran scared and sales tax numbers posted actual declines for two years in a row. Lawrence City Hall is now on pace to collect $ 2 million more in sales tax revenues than it budgeted.
Here’s a look at how Lawrence’s sales taxes have grown or shrunk over the years:
2011: up 4.5 percent. 2010: down 1.68 percent. 2009: down 2.53 percent. 2008: up 3.57 percent. 2007: up 1.58 percent. 2006: up 3.54 percent. 2005: up 3.52 percent. 2004: up 4.81 percent. 2003: up 1.15 percent. 2002: up 0.46 percent. 2001: up 3.79 percent. 2000: up 1.71 percent. 1999: up 5.17 percent. 1998: up 8.58 percent. 1997: up 6.48 percent 1996: down 0.71 percent
While the growth rate is near an all-time high, folks shouldn’t misinterpret that to mean Lawrence really has gotten its mojo from the 1990s back. Here’s an interesting figure. In that record year of 1998, Lawrence consumers spent $967.4 million. If you adjust that number for inflation, it comes out to $1.37 billion in 2012 dollars. Lawrence this year is on pace to spend a little more than $1.26 billion for the year. Ah, the good old days when home equity still worked like an ATM.
But today’s numbers do show that Lawrence consumers almost have returned to their spending levels prior to the financial crash that happened in late 2008. Here’s a look at actual consumer spending figures for the past five years, with the number in parenthesis showing 2012 inflation-adjusted dollars.
2012 - $1.25 billion. 2011 - $1.17 billion ($1.20). 2010 - $1.12 billion ($1.19). 2009 - $1.14 billion ($1.23). 2008 - $1.17 billion ($1.26).
The November sales tax report also gives us our first glimpse at how holiday sales are shaping up. Due to a delay in reporting times, the November report doesn’t actually represent sales made in November. Instead, it shows sales from mid-September to mid-October, which is holiday shopping season for those organized people who make you want to throw up.
Sales in the November 2012 period were up 8.9 percent from the same period a year ago. If that trend continues, retailers will be happy, and those of us unwrapping holiday gifts may be happy too. Maybe I’ll finally get that Macarena mix tape. Oops, sorry, wrong year again.
There’s a trade in the works that sounds mighty familiar from my youth: Trading books for bats and balls.
I have received confirmation that University Book Shop, 1116 W. 23rd St., is on the way out, and Jock’s Nitch sporting goods is on the way in.
Scott Ozier, a store manager for Jock’s Nitch, told me the company will be vacating its space at 916 Massachusetts St. in order to offer a more full-line sporting goods store in the much larger space on 23rd Street.
“This will allow us to carry a lot more sporting goods,” said Ryan Boler, another manager at the company, which has eight stores in eastern and central Kansas and another five in Missouri and Oklahoma. “There is a need for it in Lawrence. There are not a lot of options in Lawrence right now, and we think the location on 23rd Street will make it easier for people to get to.”
The Jock’s Nitch store at 837 Massachusetts St. will remain open. That store serves as the company’s KU fan shop store, focusing on apparel and other team merchandise rather than sporting goods.
The new store on 23rd Street will be more than twice as large as the company’s store on Massachusetts Street.
Ozier said the new store can handle a larger line of products in all categories, but he said the soccer section is expected to expand significantly, and more football gear is expected during season as well. In addition, the company will start running a team center out of the store, selling custom apparel to youth and high school teams.
Ozier said he hopes the store can be open by April 1. The company’s store at 916 Massachusetts has been closed all week, but reopened today to begin a moving liquidation sale. The store is marking down items 25 percent to 75 percent in an effort to reduce the amount of merchandise that the company will have to move. Ozier said the store will be open through the holidays, but likely would close in early 2013, and then reopen a few months later on 23rd Street.
No word yet on when the last day for the University Book Shop will be. It does not come as a surprise that UBS is leaving the location. We reported earlier this year that the building was on the market. Plus, the owners of UBS also own Jayhawk Bookstore, which has a prime textbook selling location right on the edge of the KU campus.
• I know talk of a sporting goods store will cause people to wonder about whether one of the big box retailers, like a Dick’s Sporting Goods Store, is eyeing Lawrence.
That rumor certainly has been around for awhile, but so far it has remained just that — a rumor. The former Sears building at 27th and Iowa has been a rumor hub for such developments. Dick’s has been mentioned as a possible tenant for that location, but my understanding is that the long-term future of the Sears building is uncertain because Sears’ parent company and the Los Angeles real estate company that owns the building haven’t yet agreed how to dispose of the remaining time left on the building’s lease.
The latest rumor I’ve heard — and I haven’t yet confirmed it — is that a local car dealership plans to move into a portion of the building while it does major work on one of its dealership buildings. I’ll check on that and see if there is any truth there.
As for big box stores, though, I’m pretty certain Lawrence is getting some serious looks from a few. I don’t know all the names yet, but Menards sure seems to be mentioned a lot these days. We had reported there may be some interest in converting the former Gaslight Mobile Home Village into retail space, now that a deal for an apartment complex has fallen through at that location. But I’m pretty certain there are other locations Menards and other big box stores are looking at.
Certainly, there is the retail area the Schawda’s are trying to develop at Sixth and the South Lawrence Trafficway, which they hope will get a boost from the proposed KU/city sports park. But I’m going to be keeping a close eye on the South Iowa Street corridor. I think there is a lot of momentum building in the southern Lawrence area.
Do you think it is coincidence that it is building about the same time folks think the South Lawrence Trafficway will be completed?
I’ll let you know when I hear more solid details.
If you are a follower of the political process in Lawrence, tonight might end up being an interesting evening.
It sounds like a shake-up is in the works at the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods. The group has its meeting where it elects its officers at 7 tonight in the ground floor meeting room of the Hobbs Taylor Lofts Building at Eighth and New Hampshire streets.
It looks likely that longtime LAN chair Gwen Klingenberg is facing a major challenge to keep her leadership position with the organization. Sources tell me a strong push is being made to install Laura Routh, a longtime City Hall observer and frequent critic of the police department, to the top spot.
In fact, the effort may be so strong that Klingenberg may not even seek another term. One source told me that she essentially had resigned her seat leading up to tonight’s vote, but I haven’t been able to confirm that with Klingenberg.
Routh, however, did confirm to me that she is seeking the position.
Some of you may be wondering why you care at this point. That’s understandable. LAN doesn’t always garner a lot of attention, but it has been one of the major political players at Lawrence City Hall in the past. As the largest neighborhood organization in the city, it has an ability to muster forces for or against any number of projects.
Within the last decade LAN has held considerable sway with the commission at various times. How much sway it holds today is debatable, and that may be what this change in leadership is partially about.
A member who called me up about this potential change, said there is a split in the organization currently. One group, it appears, is seeking more aggressive advocacy from LAN, while another group is concerned that if such aggressiveness is perceived as being confrontational with City Hall that it will make it more difficult for LAN to get things done.
Routh stopped short of saying that her platform as president would involve amping up the aggressiveness of the organization. But anyone who has watched City Hall much recognizes that Routh is not hesitant to challenge commissioners and call them out on issues.
“I’m a pretty known quantity,” Routh told me. “I’m a pretty direct person. I think people know that about me. But my intention is to serve as the membership desires."
LAN runs a pretty open ship. Its meetings are open to anyone interested in Lawrence neighborhoods, but only members of the organization can vote.