Lawrence city leaders: Gate separating apartments on 6th Street from neighborhood shouldn’t be removed

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

Members of the Lawrence City Commission listen to public comment during their meeting on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

After hearing from neighbors concerned about traffic cutting through their subdivision, Lawrence city leaders have rejected an apartment complex’s request to open a currently closed entrance on its property.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 4-0, with Commissioner Amber Sellers absent, against the request to remove a gate that currently blocks one of the entrances to Alvadora Apartments, 5555 W. Sixth St.

Currently, traffic can enter the property via the entrance on Stoneridge Drive. But there’s another entrance currently blocked by the gate, which connects directly with the neighboring Stoneridge East Subdivision.

The applicant wanted to remove the gate due to its poor condition. But that was an unpopular idea for the five Stoneridge East residents who spoke at the meeting. They urged commissioners to vote against the request, and said that removing the gate and allowing more traffic to move through the neighborhood would pose a risk for children who live there.

Commissioners agreed that the property’s configuration should stay as is. Commissioner Brad Finkeldei said he was a member of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission when the development plan for the property was approved in 2007, and he hadn’t heard anything Tuesday that caused him to change his mind about the conditions set forth in the original plan.

“This development had a notorious problem with their city-required landscaping (of) trees along Sixth Street, and I can’t count how may times I went by and they would die and they’re still lacking quite a few (to be) in compliance,” Vice Mayor Mike Dever added. “So this is just another example of their lack of maintenance — or really adherence to the rules of the site plan that they agreed to — so I wouldn’t be willing to change that based on what we’ve gotten tonight.”

In other business, commissioners:

* Authorized grant applications for the Safe Routes to Schools program and a project to improve “multimodal” transportation on the Massachusetts Street corridor between 14th and 23rd streets, and approved an accompanying study on possible improvements along the corridor.

Both items were originally included as part of the meeting’s consent agenda but were pulled for further discussion, public comment and separate votes by Commissioner Lisa Larsen. They both also received unanimous votes of approval.

Most of the discussion revolved around the project along Massachusetts Street focused on “multimodal” transportation infrastructure, which accounts for all types of transportation — like walking, biking, driving and riding public transit — rather than a single type.

A few members of the public voiced concern that the project currently doesn’t call for adding any “protected” bike lanes, which create a fixed barrier between the bike lane and cars. Instead, it proposes painted lanes. A couple of commenters noted that residents who have been surveyed about the city’s bike plan have expressed strong support for protected bike lanes, a preference that also emerged during the public engagement process for an accompanying study of possible improvements along the corridor.

That plan isn’t final, though; city staff told commissioners that they’ll be able to provide direction as the project continues through the design phase. A recommended design concept for the project will also come back to the City Commission for approval later this year.

Commissioners provided some of that direction Tuesday night. Larsen said she wanted to see the city start thinking more about adding protected bike lanes along major routes, and Dever was interested in better understanding about how snow removal will work in bike lanes under the plan.


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