City of Lawrence to begin updating development code that determines where and how city grows

photo by: John English

This aerial photo taken on June 12, 2022, shows Lawrence with the University of Kansas campus in the background.

The City of Lawrence is preparing to begin a two-year process to update its land development code, dictating where and how the city grows as well as changes that could affect the look and function of existing neighborhoods and commercial areas.

The city’s land development code, which has not been updated since 2006, covers building density, parking requirements and land uses, or what type of use can occur where, as well as various other aspects of development. Along with seeking to make the development code more concise and user-friendly, the update will create regulations to implement the city’s comprehensive plan, Plan 2040. Goals in the plan include more density and infill development, more variety in housing options and more walkable neighborhoods with a mix of uses, among other goals.

The city outlined four overarching goals of the land development code update:

• Establishing a simpler and more consistent set of development procedures.

• Identifying opportunities to achieve city goals related to climate change, sustainability, housing, economic development and other community priorities.

• Making the code more user-friendly, searchable and easy to understand.

• Creating more predictable development outcomes.

The city hired Clarion Associates, a national land-use consulting firm, to assist city staff with the code update, and also established a steering committee, which will hold its first meeting next week. The city is also conducting an initial community survey and will hold the first round of public meetings regarding the code update next week. The city anticipates the update will take about two years and, following the kickoff meetings next week, will include a code assessment and a draft of the code update in three installments. The installments will cover districts and uses; development standards; and administration and procedures.

The steering committee is composed of 14 people and is chaired by City Commissioner Brad Finkeldei, who previously served six years on the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Commission. Other members include a representative from the Planning Commission, the Multimodal Transportation Commission, the Affordable Housing Advisory Board, the Sustainability Advisory Board, the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods and the Lawrence chamber of commerce. The City Commission also appointed an architect, developer, homebuilder, engineer, real estate representative and two at-large positions.

For the steering committee’s first meeting, committee members will discuss issues with the city’s current development code, using the following topics/questions to guide that discussion, according to the meeting agenda.

Zoning Districts: Is there a type of development that you think Lawrence needs but doesn’t really have?

Land Uses: Do you recall any proposed land uses that have been controversial and what happened with them?

Development Standards: Do the current regulations result in high-quality development?

Infill and Redevelopment: Are there places in Lawrence that would be good for infill and redevelopment and what would those changes look like?

Development Review: What are your observations about the development approval process?

Equity and Inclusion: Are the current regulations and processes open and inclusive?

General: What is the biggest criticism (if any) that you have regarding the city’s development regulations?

Priority Issues: If you could solve just three problems in the current land development code, what would they be?

The initial community survey is available though Sept. 30 and asks respondents to identify strengths and weaknesses of the current land development code, rank priorities for the code update and answer questions about various topics, including the review/approval process, the size and scale of new buildings and the aesthetics and design of commercial and residential development.

The city will hold a series of public meetings on various topics on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as multiple community open houses. Discussion topics include development, historic preservation, rural areas, infrastructure, housing, transportation and business. A link to the survey and a full schedule of events is available on the project website,

The Land Development Steering Committee will hold its first meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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