As virus spreads, Lawrence City Commission works to reduce attendance at next meeting

photo by: City of Lawrence

The Lawrence City Commission is pictured during its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, at City Hall.

The Lawrence City Commission will defer some topics that it had planned to discuss at its meeting Tuesday in the hopes of limiting public attendance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the March 17 meeting is still scheduled and will remain open to the public, commissioners will not be discussing an illegal public camping ordinance or limits on occupancy in temporary shelters, as previously planned, according to a message released Thursday with the commission’s agenda.

Those topics will be deferred until the April 7 meeting given the circumstances surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and the significant public interest in those topics, the city said. At their meeting Feb. 11, city leaders said they were interested in changing or possibly repealing ordinances regarding illegal camping and park hours that some say negatively affect homeless people, but they requested that city staff bring back more research about the effects of changing those ordinances.

On Tuesday, the commission is still scheduled to consider items on its consent agenda as well as a main agenda item concerning economic incentives for a mixed-use housing development planned for the Warehouse Arts District.

More details from previous coverage

Feb. 6 — Public Incentives Review Committee supports $1.4M in incentives for affordable housing development

Feb. 10 — Board recommends Warehouse Arts District project receive $550K from city affordable housing fund

As the Journal-World previously reported, the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee and its Affordable Housing Advisory Board voted to recommend the economic incentives requested for the Penn Street Lofts project, a four-story, $11.8-million development planned for three currently vacant lots at 800 Pennsylvania St. The ground floor would consist of about 4,500 square feet of commercial and retail space and seven market-rate live/work rental units. The upper floors would house 47 affordable units.

The project’s developer, Tony Krsnich, requested a $550,000 grant from the city’s affordable housing trust fund, which is largely funded by a special sales tax that Lawrence voters approved in 2017. Krsnich also requested $1.4 million in economic incentives, including a 15-year, 95% Neighborhood Revitalization Area property tax rebate; an Industrial Revenue Bonds sales tax exemption on construction materials; and a rebate of approximately $14,400 in building permit fees for the affordable units.

City staff are recommending that commissioners approve those requests at the conclusion of a public hearing Tuesday.

The city said because it had previously published notice about the hearing, it would still keep the item on the agenda. However, the city is encouraging anyone who wishes to comment to do so via email in advance of the meeting, and it has extended the deadline to submit those comments. Correspondence can be submitted by emailing before 4 p.m. Tuesday. Any comments received after that deadline will be printed and given to commissioners at the meeting, the city said.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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