WRITER: Chad Lawhorn

Talk is heating up on a 3,000-acre solar panel farm along the Douglas-Johnson County line; it would power 40,000 homes

There really might be a 3,000-acre solar panel farm — the largest in the state — developing along the eastern edge of Douglas County in the near future. While official plans for the project have not yet been filed, you can hear a lot of talk about the potential project — if you are willing to listen to generally boring and technical discussions about zoning code text amendments. Those are exactly the ...

KU has strong interest in vaccine mandates, but still contends state law prohibits them

The University of Kansas said Tuesday it’s highly interested in a vaccine mandate for its students, but don’t look for one to be implemented any time soon. A KU spokeswoman said the university still believes Kansas law precludes state universities from implementing vaccine mandates, and the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine does nothing to change that status. “KU would strongly consider a ...

As classes begin, KU provost makes it clear she expects faculty to adhere to in-person requirements

As the University of Kansas began in-person classes today, KU faculty members were given a clear reminder that they don’t have the authority to simply switch their classes to a remote format due to COVID concerns. Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer recently sent KU faculty and staff members a memo that addressed talk around campus that “some instructors may be considering independently moving the first few weeks ...

A new downtown coffee shop that also loves water; business hopes to be hub for paddling, wading, fishing enthusiasts

Some people think if you want to go fast on the water, you need a big 150 horsepower outboard engine hanging off the back of your boat. But maybe there is another way. How about a paddle and a double espresso? There is a new coffee shop in downtown Lawrence that likes that way of thinking. Great Blue Heron is in the process of opening at 823 Massachusetts St., and when it does, it will be a mix of a coffee ...

Downtown's Liberty Hall to require proof of vaccination in order to attend live music concerts

Updated at 5:33 p.m. Thursday Concert-goers at downtown Lawrence’s Liberty Hall now will need to show proof of vaccination before they can enter the live music venue. The longtime downtown business at 644 Massachusetts St. made the announcement on its social media page Wednesday night, and I confirmed the news with management there on Thursday. Liberty Hall appears to be the first major business in Lawrence ...

LMH sees first COVID death since March; recent average age of COVID patients has been 48

Updated at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday Lawrence Memorial Hospital has had its first patient death related to COVID since March, LMH’s board of trustees was told Wednesday morning. “It is very hard to see this happening again,” Traci Hoopingarner, chief nursing officer and vice-president of clinical care, told board members. Following the meeting, a spokeswoman for LMH Health said the death occurred on ...

LMH Health to pursue partnership with University of Kansas Health System, but emphasizes that Lawrence hospital is not for sale

As Lawrence likely becomes a potential landing spot for more hospital companies, LMH Health is now ready to discuss a partnership with one of the region’s biggest and most familiar names: the University of Kansas Health System. LMH Health on Wednesday afternoon announced that it had agreed to begin exclusive discussions with the KU health system about becoming a formal partner of Lawrence’s nonprofit ...

KU leader urges mask wearing off campus too; petition organizer says KU vaccine incentives lacking

KU’s message on masks is broadening. While the University of Kansas earlier this month instituted a mask mandate for all indoor spaces on the KU campus, the university’s top emergency management official specifically asked students and staff members to wear their masks off campus as well. KU has no ability to mandate members of the KU community to wear masks when not on university property, but KU’s ...

2020 Census numbers show white population in Douglas County declined over the last decade

Douglas County’s population of white residents dropped by about 1% in the last decade, while nearly every other racial category saw growth, according to new 2020 Census data. The number of white Douglas County residents dropped by nearly 1,000 people since 2010, and as a result the percent of county residents who identify as white fell below the 80% level, likely for the first time in the county’s history. ...

Something close to an Apple store opens on south Iowa; plans for Quinton's, Arts Center other downtown news

I’m not even old enough to remember the days when a student would bring an apple to the teacher. (I’m pretty sure nothing short of an “apple-tini" was going to make my teachers feel better about me.) But my wallet and I are well aware of the trend of students today bringing Apple computers to school. It is a big thing in Lawrence, and now there is a new Apple-licensed retailer looking to capitalize on it. ...

Census stats: Lawrence still isn't a city of 100,000 people; Douglas County is 5th fastest growing county in state

Story updated at 5:26 p.m. Thursday: Lawrence is still not part of the 100,000-people club. The U.S. Census Bureau’s official population totals came out Thursday, and Lawrence didn’t hit the 100,000 level, despite City of Lawrence officials estimating earlier that we had well exceeded the mark. Lawrence’s 2020 census population stands at 94,934 people. The city of Lawrence earlier this year had ...

Large, affordable housing apartment complex near SLT moving forward

A more than $40 million affordable housing apartment project is going to happen in south Lawrence after all. I reported in February that plans had been filed for a 400-plus-bedroom apartment complex to be built near the South Lawrence Trafficway, a few blocks east of Walmart. In addition to being a big project, it was slated to be a unique one because it would be an officially designated, rent-controlled ...

KU to consider COVID testing for admittance to certain events; university provides other details on return to school

University of Kansas leaders are open to requiring a negative test or proof of vaccination for admittance to certain university events, a spokeswoman said on the heels of a faculty petition calling for stronger COVID standards. “We will be providing significant incentives for unvaccinated students to get vaccinated as they return to campus,” KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said via email Monday ...

Plans filed for new assisted living facility west of Wakarusa Drive

If the plans are approved at Lawrence City Hall, a couple of hundred feet on a west Lawrence block may contain nearly the full spectrum of life. Plans have been filed for an assisted living facility to be built next door to the Lawrence Montessori School, giving the young and not-so-young new opportunities to interact. “We are really hoping to collaborate with the school,” said Alicia Holmes, an owner of ...

KU faculty has petition with about 240 names seeking stronger COVID actions; Girod says vaccination efforts need to get more aggressive

Updated at 4:47 p.m. Monday About 240 KU faculty members have signed a petition asking for a vaccine mandate — or as much of one as state law will allow — along with several other stronger COVID protocols for campus. “Although this requirement may be controversial, its efficacy is undeniable, and it should be implemented in ways and to the extent legally possible,” read the petition, which was ...

Voter turnout in last week's election hit a new low point; vote totals almost half the size they used to be

Well, we definitely can’t blame this on an August snowstorm. But we had better come up with some excuse because voter turnout in last week’s primary election was at its lowest level since 2013, when a snowstorm hit the city on primary election day. No, city and school board primary elections weren’t held in August back then. They were held in late February. It has only been in recent years that a state ...

Mandatory mask policy to begin at KU on Monday; masks to be required indoors for all

UPDATED 11:50 A.M. AUG. 6, 2021 The University of Kansas will begin requiring all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — to wear masks while indoors on campus. Chancellor Douglas Girod made the announcement Friday morning in an online message to the university community. The new policy begins Monday. "This mask mandate is an important and hopefully short-lived step that will enable us to ...

Concerns mount over homeless shelter's decision to use local hotels as COVID quarantine sites

UPDATED 8:25 P.M. AUG. 5, 2021 There’s a new question hotel travelers may want to ask themselves: Is the hotel serving as a quarantine site for people waiting out COVID-19? A recent situation in Lawrence suggests that hotel guests likely won’t know, and hotel operators themselves may be in the dark about it. The local situation involves the Lawrence Community Shelter and a decision we reported on last ...

Even the unvaccinated may not have to quarantine when coming into contact with COVID this school year; state releases new guidance

It was a common occurrence in K-12 schools across Kansas last school year: Students required to miss a week or more of school after getting too close to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Now, it is looking more likely that Kansas students — even the unvaccinated — won’t be subject to mandatory quarantine periods nearly as often. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment late last week ...