Proposed west Lawrence townhome project returning to Planning Commission with revised plan

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

The intersection of Kasold Drive and Tomahawk Drive is shown on July 19, 2022. The area in the background is near the location where a new townhouse development has been proposed to locate.

A plan to develop duplexes near the Fall Creek Farms subdivision in west Lawrence is returning to the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission for a second try at approval.

As the Journal-World reported, the original preliminary development plan for Fall Creek Villas — proposed for an 8.4-acre parcel of undeveloped land east of Fall Creek Road and west of North Kasold Drive — was denied by the Lawrence City Commission in April after city leaders cited concerns about the impact to nearby Deerfield Creek. That’s because the original plan called for that creek, which runs through the property, to be straightened and for the buffer area along the creek to be reduced.

Within months, developer Mike McGrew had filed a new set of plans for the project, this time shifting development slightly so that the creek wouldn’t be impacted.

Now, the revised preliminary development plan will once again be considered by the Planning Commission at its Wednesday meeting. If it’s ultimately approved by the City Commission, the project will add 14 new townhouse-style duplexes — 28 new housing units in total — to the Lawrence market near some of the largest and most expensive homes in the city.

According to a report from Planning Commission staff included with the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the revised plan accomplishes the goal of addressing previous environmental concerns and is able to preserve more of the existing mature vegetation on the property and the natural alignment of the creek. City planning staff is recommending that the plan be approved and forwarded to the City Commission.

“By shifting development closer to the transmission lines, more of the slope and natural drainage course is protected in this plan compared to the 2022 version,” the report reads.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission

A landscape plan for the Fall Creek Villas project from Landplan Engineering shows the 8.4-acre area where 14 duplexes would be located on land east of Fall Creek Road and west of North Kasold Drive.

The revised plan also seems to affect less area identified as “sensitive land.” Compared with the original plan, which designated 2 acres as sensitive land including a drainage easement, the revised plan identifies only 0.77 acres of sensitive land in the project area. Per the report, the area includes mature trees that won’t be disturbed except for a small area that will be re-graded. The report also notes that the developer would address this further in a final development plan, which will include a detailed landscape plan addressing how sensitive areas will be protected and preserved during construction.

But neighbors, for their part, still seem to be unhappy with the potential environmental impact in the revised plan. Two people who said they live in the neighborhood submitted comments for the Planning Commission via email, and they both said they’re still concerned about the project’s proximity to the creek.

One of them, Margaret Rose, said the creek is 35 feet away from her home and claimed the project would be “an environmental disaster,” citing concerns about the potential for more erosion and potential flooding as a result. The other neighbor, Johannah Cox, asked why developers can’t seek other spaces in the area as potential sites for new construction.

A third email message included as a public comment simply reads “It doesn’t matter what the public wants because the city will do whatever they want anyway.”

The Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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