Lawrence City Commission to consider new comprehensive plan, including controversial new growth policy

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

This file photo from July 2015 shows a westward look across Lawrence; at right, Ninth Street stretches toward downtown.

City leaders will soon consider a new growth plan that prioritizes infill development and that some say will make Lawrence housing more expensive.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider the new comprehensive plan, Plan 2040, which lays out policies that will shape how the city grows for the next 20 years. Plan 2040 prioritizes development within the city’s boundaries and requires developers to meet several requirements to annex land to expand those boundaries.

Proponents of the plan maintain that the city cannot afford to grow in any and all directions, and that growth needs to be focused in certain areas to manage city infrastructure costs and costs to taxpayers. However, as the Journal-World previously reported, the Lawrence Board of Realtors, Lawrence Home Builders Association and the local chamber of commerce have all expressed concerns about the annexation restrictions, saying that by limiting the supply of land for development and adding costs, they could make both new and existing housing more expensive.

The proposed plan prioritizes infill development by requiring that annexations of new land into the city limits only occur if demand for the proposed development is established and the developers provide a community benefit. Annexations are further limited to areas that are reachable by current fire and medical services and readily serviceable with utilities. Land that is not readily serviceable by emergency services and utilities would only be annexed if the development proposal were found to be the only way to address an identified community need.

A major point of contention in the proposed Plan 2040 is the requirement that newly annexed land provide an additional community benefit beyond just the development itself. Potential community benefits include affordable housing, employment, preservation or provision of land, or the construction of amenities or facilities for a public purpose.

Whether growth pays for itself or not and what data is available to back up that assertion will likely be part of the discussion, as all sides in the debate have said the growth policies in Plan 2040 should be data-driven. The plan also covers environment and natural resources; neighborhoods and housing; transportation; economic development; and community resources, such as parks, the arts and historic preservation. The full Plan 2040 is available on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org.

The plan will replace Horizon 2020 and covers land use in the city of Lawrence and the unincorporated areas of Douglas County. A steering committee has spent the last several years drafting the plan, and the Planning Commission reviewed the plan earlier this year and is recommending it for approval.

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

Related story

Aug. 4 — Critics say proposed growth plan that limits annexations will make Lawrence housing more expensive

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