Lawrence’s rules for conservation of historic properties get an update for the first time since 1988

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

Historic Resources Administrator Lynne Braddock Zollner speaks during the Lawrence City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.

The chapter of Lawrence’s city code that lays out the rules for conservation of properties on the local historic register is officially getting its first update since it was originally adopted — all the way back in 1988.

At Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting, city leaders unanimously adopted Ordinance No. 10016, which entirely replaces the existing Conservation of Historic Resources Code. As the Journal-World has reported, the changes loosen some review requirements for the area around listed properties, with other tweaks designed to streamline and modernize the code.

Though this chapter of the city’s code hasn’t been updated since it was first adopted, work to revise it has been underway since 2014. For the past couple of years, it’s coincided with work to revise another important chapter of city code — the Land Development Code, which dictates where and how the city should grow.

Among other technical questions about the Conservation of Historic Resources Code, city leaders at Tuesday’s meeting also had questions about how the two updated sets of rules will overlap. Commissioner Brad Finkeldei asked how this code might change or adapt to the Land Development Code once it had been revised. Finkeldei chairs the steering committee that’s guiding the revision process, which is expected to wrap up its work by this summer at the latest.

“I anticipate growing pains with the new (Conservation of Historic Resources Code),” Historic Resources Administrator Lynne Braddock Zollner told commissioners. “It hasn’t been revised since the (1980s). There are a lot of things that have changed since the ’80s. We may not have captured all of those in this draft, so I’m sure as we go through the Development Code — especially with things like adaptive reuse and (accessory dwelling units) — those will be things that we want to make sure those codes mesh on.”

For one early example, Braddock Zollner said accessory dwelling units would be considered “accessory structures” in the updated Historic Resources code and thus wouldn’t be reviewed as a part of any new construction, demolition of primary structures or additions near properties on the historic register. They’d be allowable as long as they meet the Land Development Code’s criteria.

Finkeldei also asked how the new code might affect the workload for the city’s Historic Resources Commission, which has historically reviewed any requests to develop or demolish properties in the vicinity of historic buildings. Under the new code, that review would instead be performed administratively for any properties not visible from the public right of way of the historic property.

“I wouldn’t want to commit to a number, but I would think that it’d be significant,” Braddock Zollner said.

Commissioners were largely pleased with the new code, with Mayor Bart Littlejohn saying that it looks like a good start — especially considering that it seems it will be feasible to adjust this chapter of code as needed in the future to better align with the Land Development Code when it’s also eventually updated.

“That gives me a little bit of comfort, that there’s a little bit more fluidity to it, it’s more malleable, that it can change and grow as we need it to,” Littlejohn said. “But as people have said, I think we need to start somewhere, so where we are right now looks good to me.”

In other business, commissioners:

• As part of the meeting’s consent agenda, approved 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. The project was awarded $1.3 million from the city’s 2024 Affordable Housing Trust Fund allocations.

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

• Unanimously approved two landmark nominations to the Lawrence Register of Historic Places — the Henry Waters House at 1124 New Jersey St., which was constructed in 1872 and is associated with Henry Waters and C. Wakefield & Company, and the Historic Kansas River Bridge Stone Pier, significant for its association with the transportation history of Lawrence and as the site of a lynching that took place in 1882.


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