City Commission candidate Shipley wants better housing and job options
photo by: contributed photo
Having grown up in Lawrence, Courtney Shipley says she knows there are people who have left the city only because they couldn’t afford to stay.
“Their parents are here, and they love it here and they wish they could raise their kids here, but it’s really expensive and there are no jobs,” Shipley said. “So, I feel like we’ve failed all of those people who wish they could stay here, but there’s nothing for them.”
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Shipley, 40, one of six candidates running for City Commission, said that needs to change. She said providing more options for the generation of kids growing up in Lawrence today, including her own children, is one of the main factors driving her to run for the commission.
Shipley, who serves on the Board of Zoning Appeals, said that the city has an educated, willing workforce and it needs to determine why more businesses don’t chose to locate in the city. She said the upcoming implementation of the new comprehensive plan, in addition to affecting land use, will also lead to economic changes and will be the most important task of the next commission.
“There are going to be a lot of little details and we need to make sure the new (commissioners) are able to look at each one of those things and identify what the consequences are and make sure that we get out of it what we were trying to get out of it,” Shipley said. “It’s not glamorous; it’s a lot of little codes and ordinances.”
Plan 2040 has taken years to develop and once approved will require various changes to city zoning code and other regulations. Shipley said the plan will also decide a lot of other things that greatly impact the look and function of Lawrence, such as building heights and parking.
Shipley said she thinks another contributing factor causing businesses to locate elsewhere could by the city’s shortage of workforce housing. She said the city should consider conducting a cost-of-growth study to better understand housing costs and the obstacles for building more workforce housing.
Shipley, who is also chair of the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, said that the city’s sidewalks and stormwater infrastructure are two important issues affecting residents that also need to be addressed.
The city adopted a policy last year to administer its sidewalk repair ordinance, which has been in place for decades but not strongly enforced. The city requires property owners to repair hazardous sidewalks adjacent to their properties, and certain homeowners could qualify for financial assistance from the city.
Shipley said other cities have successfully adopted sidewalk repair programs, and that she thinks the commission should direct city staff to look at five methods other cities have used to solve their sidewalk problems.
“There are programs happening around the country, and any number of them or combination of them could function here very well and also not cost us nearly as much money as it’s costing us right now,” Shipley said.
For example, Shipley noted a method that allows residents to opt in to a program where they pay a small monthly fee and the city uses that funding to make sidewalk repairs when necessary, but only for those who opt in. Those who haven’t opted in must pay for repairs out of pocket. She also says she thinks it’s perfectly reasonable for taxpayers to ask that part of the infrastructure sales tax be used to fund a city sidewalk repair program.
Regarding stormwater, Shipley said its evident the city needs a new stormwater master plan, which has not been updated for years. She said many people had flooded basements this year with all the rainfall, and stormwater management needs to improve.
“We live in a river valley,” Shipley said. “We probably should be a little more prepared than we are now.”
Shipley moved to Lawrence as a child, and has been a Lawrence resident for about 29 years. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures and currently works as a property manager. Shipley is president of The Friends of Oak Hill Cemetery, member of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance board, and formerly served on the Transient Guest Tax Grant Program Advisory Board.
The seats of Commissioners Stuart Boley, Leslie Soden and Matthew Herbert are up for election this year, and both Soden and Herbert have announced they will not seek reelection. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 5.