By one measure, Lawrence water 16th most expensive in U.S.; updates on office project, airport hangar

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Lawn sprinklers are shown in this undated photo.

News and notes from around town:

• I long ago determined that ear plugs to block out the neighbors’ comments are cheaper than a sprinkler to keep the yard green. Not everyone has, though, and the cost of summer water bills is a frequent topic of angst in Lawrence.

Now, there is a ranking out that you can add to the debate.

The lawn care website Lawn Love recently published its list of the most expensive cities in the U.S. for lawn watering. Lawrence ranked No. 108 out of 498 cities examined. That was third highest in the state, behind Topeka at No. 96 and Wichita at No. 97.

The study took into account not just the cost of water, but also the average size of lawns in different communities, average rainfall amounts, average number of growing days and other such factors that would impact how often you likely would have to water your lawn.

Take that ranking for whatever you think it is worth. Those multi-metric rankings can get a little convoluted. However, the report also ranked each city based simply on the percentage of income a household spends on their water bill each month. That is a little more straightforward.

It also produces a less favorable picture of Lawrence water rates. It found that Lawrence’s cost ranking was the 16th highest in the country, which was by far the highest in the state. Here’s a look at the cost rankings for each Kansas community included in the report.

• Lawrence: 16

• Topeka: 43

• Overland Park: 124

• Wichita: 137

• Olathe: 247

• Kansas City, Kan.: 322

It is worth remembering that this isn’t simply a ranking of water rates. Rather, this is a ranking that takes into account water rates and how they compare to a community’s average household income. When I dug into the report a little deeper, I half expected to see the top of the list dominated by college towns, since they sometimes have lower household incomes.

However, that wasn’t the case. The top of the list was dominated by cities in the south or southwest part of the U.S., where water is in lower supply. Lawrence and O’Fallon, Missouri were the only two cities in the top 20 that weren’t in the south or southwest.

One other interesting tidbit from the report: Lawrence has the smallest lawn size, on average, among any of the Kansas communities that were studied. Just for fun, here is that ranking. The ranking in parentheses is the overall cost of watering rank among the 498 communities, in case you are interested in that.

• Topeka: 57th largest lawns (96 overall ranking)

• Wichita: 127 (97)

• Kansas City: 136 (255)

• Overland Park: 164 (225)

• Olathe: 202 (264)

• Lawrence: 210 (108)


It is looking less likely that a corporate headquarters project is going to move into the former Borders bookstore building in downtown Lawrence.

For sale signs recently have been hung at the former bookstore building at the corner of Seventh and New Hampshire streets in downtown Lawrence. The nearly 20,000-square-foot property is listed for sale at $4.05 million through various online commercial real estate sites. The property is being marketed as “ideal for office, retail, grocery or entertainment” uses.

That’s interesting because Lawrence businessman Doug Compton has been working for the last couple of years on a project to move the headquarters for his property management and construction businesses to the site.

After nearly two years of trying, Compton in August won city commission approval for a package of financial incentives to locate both First Management and First Construction in the building, which Compton had planned to significantly renovate.

The project was touted as a good deal for downtown because it would bring 80 existing employees into the downtown district. When Compton proposed the project, the headquarters for both First Management and First Construction were in far North Lawrence. However, the companies no longer are located in that location. It appears the two companies — the property management business and the construction business — are in separate locations. According to First Management’s website, it has moved to downtown at 932 Massachusetts, while the construction company has remained in North Lawrence. The downtown project also was expected to provide the company with the room to eventually add about 20 new employees.

Compton confirmed to me via text that he is rethinking the project, noting that the interest rate environment has changed dramatically since he envisioned the project. I didn’t have a chance to chat with him in more detail, but if I get a more substantive update about his future plans, I’ll pass it along.


Another property that Compton has been involved with over the years is the Lawrence Regional Airport. Compton several years ago led a group that acquired the lease to operate the city-owned airport.

Back in August 2022, we reported that Compton was working on plans to build an 80,000-square-foot hangar at the airport in North Lawrence to house a company that would provide a host of maintenance and renovation services for aircraft.

In June, we further reported that the company slated for the hangar was Dream Aviation, which has ties to local businessman Chintaka Rajapaksha, an executive with the local Kia dealership. Rajapaksha also has been a partner with Compton at the airport.

But that project has not had many visible signs of moving forward. Now, new plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall. Those plans call for an approximately 20,000-square-foot hangar to be built on a site east of the terminal building. The hangar would be just south and east of an existing hangar at the airport.

Rajapaksha is listed as the developer on the plans, and the plans call the project Dream Air. The 20,000-square-foot hangar would be significantly smaller than the original plan we reported, but the latest documents do show a “Phase II” development that would construct another 20,000-square-foot hangar just south of the Phase I hangar that has been proposed.

The project will require city site plan approval, and also may require some additional approvals. The city of Lawrence would continue to own the property that the hangars would sit on and technically would serve as a landlord for the project.


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