City hears that planners will start preparing for development west of South Lawrence Trafficway; climate change plan also on tap

The west leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway, looking northwest from the Iowa Street junction, is shown in this file photo from June 2017.

From climate change to changing the look of far west Lawrence, it is on the to-do list for the city-county planning department in 2022.

At their meeting Tuesday evening, Lawrence city commissioners signed off on a 2022 work plan for the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department that will include a major study of how approximately 2,400 acres west of the South Lawrence Trafficway bypass should be developed in future years.

The area — which includes the large stretches of agricultural land just west of the Bob Billings Parkway and SLT interchange — has been discussed as a location where large amounts of new housing could be constructed as the city continues to hear about shortages of new homes and rising home prices.

“That’s not the only location, but it is a prime candidate,” Mayor Brad Finkeldei said. “Once we have that plan in place, hopefully it will encourage and help developers understand what we are looking for in that area.”

The city and county approved a major plan for the area in 2015, but the area has remained largely undeveloped.

Figuring out the future of that area won’t be the only task for the planning department. It also will tackle how the city and county should adapt to climate change. The department intends to complete a “Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation Plan” in 2022. City commissioners did hear some comments urging that work to be completed in 2021.

“Practically every day or every week there is a new climate emergency that is made public,” said Michael Almon, a Lawrence resident and environmental activist who pointed to the heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, a rash of forest fires in Canada, the loss of permafrost in Siberia and several other news items.

Commissioners said that they appreciated the urgency, but that the amount of other planning work that is in progress would make it difficult to start the local climate plan study this year.

Other items on the 2022 work plan include: a study of future land uses along 23rd Street; a plan setting out future land uses allowed in the East Lawrence neighborhood; a new policy governing how Lawrence annexes rural property into the city limits; and an ordinance governing regulations for development along streams and creating buffer areas along certain streams.

In other business, commissioners approved a contract to start design work for the replacement of a portion of Wakarusa Drive between Research Park Way and Clinton Parkway. Design work would begin this year with construction starting in 2022.


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