WRITER: Rochelle Valverde

City leaders approve code changes to allow for new downtown Lawrence layout; parking details still up for discussion

City leaders have voted to approve code changes that would allow downtown businesses to expand their operations into what are currently angled parking spots, but exactly what that downtown layout will look like and how much parking will be retained is not yet decided. Late Tuesday, during a meeting that stretched into early Wednesday morning, the Lawrence City Commission voted 3-2, with commissioners Lisa ...

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

Lawrence City Commission approves changes to no-camping ordinance, making some exceptions for homeless people

Updated at 4:46 p.m. Wednesday City leaders have approved changes to the city’s no-camping rules to be more accommodating to homeless people when local shelters are full. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 4-1, with Mayor Jennifer Ananda opposed, to add an exemption to the city ordinance that currently makes it illegal to camp on public right-of-way. The exemption, aimed at ...

Protesters disrupt City Commission meeting to demand release of murder defendant Rontarus Washington Jr.

For about an hour, a group of protesters Tuesday made expletive-laden demands for Lawrence city commissioners to release a black man who has been in the Douglas County Jail awaiting a murder trial for five years. Protesters flowed into City Hall chambers demanding that the commission defund the Lawrence Police Department and that city leaders use their connections to county offices handling the case to address ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider updated downtown layout to respond to coronavirus

City leaders will soon decide whether to approve a temporary layout for downtown that limits parking in an effort to give businesses more space to safely operate during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission could approve the temporary layout as proposed, approve a modified version of the layout, direct staff to explore more options, or make no changes, according ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider spending plan for $1.5M in federal CDBG/Home funds

City leaders will soon consider a plan for how to spend more than $1.5 million in federal funding from the Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnerships programs. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider the 2020 spending plan, which would allocate $1.53 million for various community and social service organizations. Recipients would include the Lawrence ...

City leaders want a stronger police review board, more transparency on complaints against officers

Over the past two years, no member of the general public has laid eyes on details of the more than 25 complaints made against Lawrence police, and none of the cases has been reviewed by the city's Community Police Review Board. But as calls for police reform and accountability are heard across the country, city leaders are saying the public should know more. Police department reports that are publicly ...

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

Lawrence City Commission to consider changes to no-camping ordinance, making some exceptions for homeless people

City leaders will soon consider changing the city’s no-camping rules to be more accommodating to homeless people when local shelters are full. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider adding an exemption to the city ordinance that currently makes it illegal to camp on public right-of-way. The exemption, aimed at decriminalizing homelessness, would allow people to camp on any ...

Friends of the Kaw project brings native trees, grass and wildflowers back to banks of Kansas River

On a portion of the Kansas River bank that was once choked out by invasive vines, native wildflowers are now blooming and pawpaw trees are taking root. The postcard-like scene is a result of a two-year project to remove invasive species from a one-mile stretch of the Kansas River and replant the area with native trees, grasses and flowers. Friends of the Kaw, a nonprofit preservation and advocacy group, was ...

New program recognizes Lawrence businesses that have pledged to follow health guidelines related to the coronavirus

City business leaders are hoping that if customers know businesses are following health guidelines to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, they will be more likely to visit restaurants, shops and other businesses. As part of that effort, several local business organizations have created a campaign to recognize businesses — and make them more recognizable to potential customers — that have pledged to ...

Lawrence mayor calls for city to reallocate some police funding for social services

As protests against police killings of black people and calls for reform continue across the country, Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda is calling for the city to reallocate some police funding to social services, among other changes. At the opening of the Lawrence City Commission’s meeting Tuesday, Ananda called for various changes, which the commission agreed to consider as part of a future meeting. Ananda ...

City leaders open to limited changes to sidewalk repair program

There was not enough support among city leaders on Tuesday to abandon Lawrence's contentious sidewalk repair program, but leaders were interested in a few limited tweaks to how the program operates. Currently, the program generally requires homeowners and other property owners to pay to repair city sidewalks that border their property. As part of a work session Tuesday, commissioners discussed several questions ...

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

Lawrence City Commission to consider agreement to power city buildings with wind energy

City leaders will soon consider an agreement that would allow nearly all of the energy that powers city buildings to come from renewable sources. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider entering into a 20-year agreement with Evergy Energy, formerly Westar Energy, for 8 megawatts of renewable energy annually. The energy would be generated from the Ponderosa Wind Farm in Beaver ...

Lawrence City Commission to discuss changes to controversial sidewalk repair program

City leaders will soon discuss some new ideas for sidewalk repair, including the creation of a sidewalk insurance program and a potential city takeover of maintenance responsibilities. The Lawrence City Commission requested to reconsider the city’s sidewalk maintenance program earlier this year, and the commission will discuss the potential changes as part of its work session Tuesday. Some residents have ...

Lawrence businesses say customers are mostly following mask rules

As more local businesses reopen after COVID-19-related shutdowns, some are doing so with a new sign on their door telling all customers they must wear a facial covering. And business owners who spoke with the Journal-World last week said most of their customers are fine with that. In fact, one business owner can count the number of people who objected on one hand. Kelly Corcoran, owner of the downtown record ...

$3.75M federal grant will help City of Lawrence purchase its first zero-emission buses

Lawrence transit officials say a federal grant to purchase the city’s first fully electric buses is a step in the right direction for the city’s sustainability goals and for eventually converting the city’s fleet of diesel buses. The Federal Transit Administration has awarded the city a $3.75 million federal grant to purchase zero- or low-emission buses. Transit and Parking Manager Adam Weigel said the ...

Judge postpones sentencing for Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel; request to serve sentence at home still undecided

Lawrence developer and four-time convicted felon Thomas Fritzel’s request to serve his prison sentences at his multimillion-dollar home will not be decided this month as once planned. Fritzel, who was convicted of the felonies in two federal cases, requested in April to serve his prison sentences for both cases in home confinement because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The motions, filed in U.S. District Court, ...

City leaders approve land permit for Douglas County jail expansion, say vote is 'not an endorsement'

Though city leaders voted to approve plans and permits associated with the county's expansion of its jail, some commissioners said they were not endorsing the project. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Courtney Shipley opposed, to the institutional development plan and special use permit for the expansion of the Douglas County Jail, 3601 E. 25th St. The ...

Lawrence City Commission supportive of new downtown layout, but open to other options

City leaders expressed support for a new layout for downtown that limits parking in an effort to give businesses more space to safely operate during the coronavirus pandemic, but wanted the city to remain open to other alternatives. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission got its first look at the temporary layout proposed for downtown Lawrence that decreases the space allocated for ...

In wake of protests, Lawrence mayor asks 2 city boards to work on racial equity projects

In the wake of a protest against police brutality that filled the streets of downtown Lawrence, the mayor has asked two city boards to start working on projects related to racial equity. Thousands of people marched down Massachusetts Street on Sunday evening to protest police killings of black people and systemic racism in the United States, as the Journal-World previously reported. At the Lawrence City ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider allocating $446,000 in federal coronavirus relief to homeless shelter

Story updated at 5:40 p.m. Monday City leaders will soon consider providing close to $450,000 of federal coronavirus relief funds to the local homeless shelter, enabling the construction of an isolation ward and other building improvements to help the shelter respond to the pandemic. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider providing a $446,184 grant — allocated to the city ...