Rezoning request for duplex project fails to get enough votes from Lawrence city commissioners

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

The Lawrence City Commission discusses a rezoning request as part of its meeting Oct. 4, 2022.

Going against much-touted goals regarding infill and density, two Lawrence city leaders thwarted a request to increase the density of a 3.4-acre parcel of land to allow for duplexes to be built there instead of single-family homes.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 3-2, with Mayor Courtney Shipley and Commissioner Amber Sellers opposed, in favor of a request to rezone approximately 3.4 acres located at 1100 Kasold Drive from a single-dwelling residential zoning district to a multi-dwelling residential district, or specifically from RS7 to RM12D. However, a simple majority wasn’t enough to approve the rezoning request; because neighbors filed a protest petition, the rezoning would have required the approval of a supermajority, or at least four of the commissioners.

Shipley, who noted she lives directly across from the street from the proposed project, was the strongest voice against the rezoning. Shipley argued that even though the city’s comprehensive plan, Plan 2040, calls for infill and density, it also speaks about maintaining the form and pattern of established neighborhoods.

“Most of these people that I know have lived there 20 years and paid taxes 20 years or more, and they have a fair expectation, I think, of the neighborhood having a similar pattern to what it has now,” Shipley said.

Shipley added that she believed there were a lot of places where infill development was appropriate, but that the proposed area was not one of those places. Sellers said she thought infill and annexation would be the way for the city to add some of the housing variety it is missing, but that with such proposals she would also consider the population being served and the current character of an area.

The votes by Shipley and Sellers went against the planning department’s recommendation and the vote of the Planning Commission. The planning department report cited several goals of Plan 2040, including infill, density, and the goal of incorporating a variety of housing types, densities and price ranges into neighborhoods. Ultimately, planning staff found that the request was “strongly in alignment” with Plan 2040.

Residents from the bordering single-family neighborhood filed the protest petition against the rezoning, and several spoke at Tuesday’s meeting during public comment or submitted written comments. Their concerns included traffic, parking and storm water drainage and the potential for the project to negatively affect property values. Some said they preferred single-family homes or for the green space to be preserved, and several spoke about existing issues with storm water drainage in the area, which is near a steep hill. A few also expressed worry about the duplexes potentially becoming rentals or being occupied by students.

photo by: City of Lawrence/BG Consultants

A concept plan shows a potential layout for a development at 1100 Kasold Drive.

BG Consultants submitted the rezoning request on behalf of Christ Community Church, which is selling the property and is located adjacent to it. Under RM12D, the requested zoning district, the maximum number of dwelling units allowed per acre is 12, meaning the 3.4-acre site could have accommodated a maximum of 40 units, according to the planning department report. David Hamby, with BG Consultants, said the plan was to build 12 or 13 duplexes, for a total of 24 to 26 living units. The developer, Roger Johnson, said he planned for the neighborhood to be an owner-occupied retirement community with a homeowners association to handle exterior maintenance. Johnson also said he was aware of the drainage problems on the site and that they would be addressed.

The commissioners who voted in favor of the request also said they were concerned about the storm water drainage issues reported by neighbors, and they confirmed with planning staff that the upcoming platting process would study and address both drainage and traffic. They emphasized the city’s housing shortage and goals regarding infill and increased residential density. Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said the city has a housing crisis, where the lack of housing has been pushing up prices, and that the project aligned with the city’s goals.

“Affordability continues to get more and more out of reach for the average community member,” Larsen said. “So this idea of higher density within our city boundaries is something that we’ve been working toward as a commission and as a community, and I think this does fall in line with our Plan 2040.”

Commissioner Bart Littlejohn said that single-family housing is too expensive for many people, and he saw duplexes as a potential way to provide less expensive housing options.

Brad Finkeldei, who previously served on the Planning Commission, agreed that the request was consistent with Plan 2040. Finkeldei, who is chair of the steering committee helping to rewrite the city’s code to implement Plan 2040, added that he could envision an updated code that didn’t delineate between single-family homes, duplexes and triplexes and instead allowed all by right in various residential areas.

“I do think under Plan 2040 and the way we’re going, I guess I don’t see the distinction as much as we move forward between RS7, RS5, RS10, RMD12 even,” Finkeldei said. “I think we’re moving in that direction.”

• In other business, the City Commission proclaimed Oct. 10, 2022, as Indigenous Peoples Day. Kansas state Rep. Christina Haswood, Lawrence school board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood, and Steve Cadue, Cadue-Blackwood’s father and a community advocate for Indigenous people, made remarks, and Shipley read the proclamation.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.