City leaders could approve update to historic preservation chapter of city code for the first time in more than 3 decades

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on Jan. 31, 2023.

The chapter of Lawrence’s city code that lays out rules related to the conservation of properties on the local historic register could get its first update in more than three decades this week.

At Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting, city leaders will consider adopting Ordinance No. 10016, which entirely replaces the existing Conservation of Historic Resources Code. The chapter of the code that’s currently in use is unchanged from when it was first adopted in 1988.

As the Journal-World has reported, the proposed changes loosen some requirements for the area around listed properties, along with various other changes designed to streamline and modernize the code. Historic Resources Administrator Lynne Braddock Zollner has previously told the Journal-World that includes clearer, more user-friendly design guidelines and standards.

The City Commission’s approval would be the culmination of a 10 year revision process, per the agenda for this week’s meeting. City staff last recommended the Historic Resources Commission review the chapter and identify any recommended changes in 2014, which evolved into an effort to revise it completely. The agenda notes that the ordinance establishing the existing code calls for it to be reviewed every five years.

The less stringent rules have generated mixed reactions from community members. As the Journal-World has reported, residents during a series of community meetings held at the beginning of 2023 were concerned about one change that loosens the restrictions for developing or demolishing properties in the vicinity of historic buildings.

That change would remove the current requirement that any property in the “environs” — or within 250 feet — of a property on the historic register is subject to review from the HRC, instead only affecting properties that are visible from the public right of way of the historic property. That process would also take place administratively, instead of having to go through the HRC.

In other business, commissioners will:

* As part of the meeting’s consent agenda, consider approving a request from Tenants to Homeowners to transfer a 4.64-acre parcel at Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway to Floret Hill LLC for a low-income housing tax credit project.

Tenants to Homeowners is partnering with Wheatland Investments Group — the developer behind Floret Hill — to develop 121 new units of affordable housing on the property, a project which was awarded $1.3 million from the city’s 2024 Affordable Housing Trust Fund allocations.

* As part of a work session, hear an update from Elizabeth Garvin with Clarion Associates on progress with updating the city’s Land Development Code.

Garvin and a steering committee are working to update the code, which dictates where and how the city should grow, for the first time since 2006. Garvin’s presentation will detail the work the steering committee has undertaken thus far and what steps are left before the updated code could be adopted later this year.

* Consider a landmark nomination to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places for two properties — the Henry Waters House at 1124 New Jersey St. and the Historic Kansas River Bridge Stone Pier.

The Henry Waters House was constructed in 1872 and is associated with Henry Waters and C. Wakefield & Company, which were a representative example of the development of the patent medicine industry in the U.S. from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the 20th century.

The pier, meanwhile, is significant for its association with the transportation history of Lawrence and the lynching that took place on the bridge in 1882.

The Lawrence City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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