WRITER: Rochelle Valverde

Lawrence City Commission to consider development plan for mixed-use apartment and boardwalk project along Kansas River

City leaders will soon consider a proposal for an apartment, retail and hotel project that would transform a portion of the riverfront near downtown Lawrence. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider approving the preliminary development plan for the North Lawrence Riverfront Development. If approved, the multiphase project would ultimately add several multistory buildings ...

Lawrence attorney, nonprofit board member Brad Finkeldei files for City Commission

Attorney and nonprofit board member Brad Finkeldei has filed for election to the Lawrence City Commission. Finkeldei, a native of Wichita, graduated from the University of Kansas law school and has lived in Lawrence permanently since 2000. Finkeldei, 45, has served on the boards of various local organizations and the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Commission and said that he wants to take his ...

Feral cat trap-neuter-return proposal returning to Lawrence City Commission for review

Lawrence city leaders will soon review changes to the city’s animal control ordinance, including a provision that would allow feral cat colonies. The Lawrence Humane Society proposed changes to the ordinance that would allow for a “trap-neuter-release,” or TNR, program under which cats would be caught, neutered, vaccinated, and then returned to where they were collected and allowed to roam free. As part ...

Following recent pay increases, another $2 million of raises could be in store for city staff

Pay increases that consultants have recommended for city employees could cost the city an additional $2 million in 2020, but city officials say that doesn’t necessarily mean a property tax or utility rate increase will be required to fund the raises. When asked about the prospect, Assistant City Manager Casey Toomay said the city is just beginning revenue and expense forecasting for next year’s budget, and ...

Queens Road taxing districts don't restrict property use, judge rules; hearing for request to halt project upcoming

Though one claim against the City of Lawrence related to the controversial Queens Road taxing districts has been dismissed, the larger questions remain regarding whether the districts were improperly set up and whether the project could be temporarily halted so the case can be heard. In Douglas County District Court Thursday, Judge Amy Hanley ruled on two aspects of the case, one in favor of the city and the ...

Lawrence resident's unfounded accusations during public meeting draw angry rebuke from commissioner

A Lawrence city commissioner took the unusual step of calling out a member of the public at Tuesday night's City Commission meeting after that person insulted commissioners and city staff and made unfounded accusations of criminal wrongdoing. At the meeting, Lawrence resident Dan Dannenberg spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. He touched on several topics related to the city's affordable ...

City leaders ask for improved evaluation process for affordable housing proposals

As the city prepares to spend up to $1 million annually to address a shortage of affordable housing, city leaders are asking that the process for awarding the funds be further refined. The Lawrence City Commission met with members of the Affordable Housing Advisory Board as part of its work session Tuesday, and the two bodies discussed the board's goals and strategies for using the funding as well as the ...

Lawrence city leaders express support for lowering fine for marijuana possession to $1

One dollar. That’s how much Lawrence city leaders indicated they think those charged with possessing small amounts of marijuana should be fined. As part of its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission reviewed a draft ordinance that proposed reducing the minimum fine, currently $200, for those convicted of possessing 32 grams or less of marijuana. A draft of the changes suggested a minimum fine of ...

Lawrence City Commission to discuss how new affordable housing funds should be spent

With the city’s new affordable housing sales tax set to go into effect this spring, city leaders will soon discuss how those dollars can be used to help alleviate the affordable-housing shortage. As part of its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will meet with members of the Affordable Housing Advisory Board. The city will soon have hundreds of thousands of dollars more in funding to address ...

Bringing a building 'back to life': After 10-year effort, newly rehabilitated train station to be rededicated

For years, little attention was given to the blond brick building along the railroad tracks. Though it served as an active train station, the Santa Fe depot was poorly maintained, was often vandalized and was sometimes the site of illegal squatting and drinking. Then, more than 10 years ago, a group of Lawrence residents started taking care of the station — hosting cleaning days, ensuring its doors were open ...

City leaders to review proposal to reduce minimum fine for marijuana possession to $50

City leaders will soon review potential changes that would lighten the city’s penalties for marijuana possession, which currently cost first-time offenders hundreds of dollars in fines and other charges. As part of its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will review a draft ordinance that, if ultimately approved, would reduce the minimum fine from $200 to $50 for those convicted of possessing ...

City and county agree to fund outside review of homeless shelter's operations and finances

Lawrence city leaders have decided to provide the homeless shelter some of its annual funding early while at the same time ordering an independent analysis of the shelter’s finances. As part of its meeting this week, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to provide the Lawrence Community Shelter all of its 2019 funding now — a total of $200,000 — to alleviate budgetary pressure. Commissioners ...

City issues apology after city commissioners express concern about 'secretive' focus groups for downtown master plan

After Lawrence city commissioners objected to what they said were secretive focus groups for the development of the Downtown Master Plan, information will be made public about the previously invitation-only meetings. Commissioner Leslie Soden brought up the concern at the commission’s meeting Tuesday evening, saying that she’d learned of the focus group meetings only the night before when talking to people ...

Lawrence City Commission approves more than $400,000 in pay increases for city employees

City of Lawrence leaders have approved a new pay plan that will provide more than $400,000 in pay raises for city employees beginning next year. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to provide funding to increase employee pay. The decision came after the commission received a study of the city’s compensation plan that indicated a significant number of city employees ...

Downtown area residents identify dozens of issues facing downtown as part of master plan workshop

Update: Wednesday, Feb. 6 A youth focus group, a communitywide workshop and a workshop for downtown businesses owners and developers that were previously scheduled to take place Wednesday, Feb. 6, and Thursday, Feb. 7, were canceled Wednesday afternoon because of weather. The list of challenges facing downtown compiled by a group of Lawrence residents was long and varied, but from it emerged some consensus. ...

For several years, city made sales tax mistakes on water, trash bills; some customers may be due small refund

The city of Lawrence recently discovered it has been incorrectly taxing as many as 2,000 solid waste customers, adding to a list of other billing errors that the city has discovered over the past two years. Customers who requested an additional trash cart were mistakenly being charged sales tax for the cart, while other customers were not charged sales tax on the purchase of certain yard waste and other bins ...

City Hall to soon expand to Riverfront Plaza building; Municipal Court to relocate

City of Lawrence services will be more concentrated on the northern edge of downtown by the end of this month. Within a few weeks, the city’s Planning and Development Department and Municipal Court will open in their new location at the Riverfront Plaza, which is directly east of City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. Renovations to the area of the building the city will use have been underway for months and are nearing ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider pay increases for city employees

City of Lawrence leaders will soon consider a new pay plan that would provide more than $400,000 in pay raises for city employees beginning next year. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive a study of the city’s compensation plan that was conducted by McGrath Human Resources Group. The report indicates that a significant number of city employees are underpaid when compared ...

In response to lawsuit, city denies claims that Queens Road taxing districts are unlawful

The city of Lawrence is denying claims that the taxing districts it created to pay for the multimillion-dollar reconstruction of Queens Road were set up improperly. Earlier this month, a homeowner in the special taxing districts filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court against the city. The homeowner, Kurt Schaake, is asking that the project be halted so that the case can be heard. The lawsuit claims ...

Amid dangerous cold, homeless shelter leaders work to get people off Lawrence streets

As temperatures dropped Tuesday night, Lawrence Community Shelter Interim Executive Director Charles Frager says he was driving around Lawrence, looking for homeless people still out on the streets. Frager said that even though the homeless shelter is not at capacity, there are still people who he said lack a strong sense of self-preservation, have previously been banned and may think they can’t come back, or ...