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Lawrence apartment boom fizzles a bit as City Hall deals major setback to big apartment plan

A student-oriented apartment complex with more than 500 bedrooms may not be coming to the area near Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive after all. Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioners dealt the project a potentially fatal blow on Wednesday.

After hearing from a long line of upset neighbors, planning commissioners unanimously denied a proposed change to the city’s comprehensive plan to accommodate the project.

Commissioners didn’t vote on the actual design plans for Gilbane Development to build 197 apartments with 522 bedrooms near the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive. Instead, commissioners denied a change to Horizon 2020, the comprehensive plan that provides guidance on particular areas that the community should develop. Horizon 2020 listed the vacant property near Clinton Parkway and Crestline as developing with office use in the future. The developers were seeking to have the plan modified to list the area for medium and high density residential use.

As we’ve reported several times, the project had a real twist: A day care — the Lawrence Child Development Center sits on a portion of the property. Gilbane, which is a large developer of apartments across the country, could not reach a deal to buy out the day care, so it planned to simply build around it. The proposed plans showed the day care surrounded on three sides.

Planning commissioners have rejected plans for a proposed 500-bedroom student apartment complex near the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive. The complex would have surrounded the Lawrence Child Development Center, 2333 Crestline Dr., seen here on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.

Planning commissioners have rejected plans for a proposed 500-bedroom student apartment complex near the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Crestline Drive. The complex would have surrounded the Lawrence Child Development Center, 2333 Crestline Dr., seen here on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. by Nick Krug

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence

Courtesy: Landplan Engineering/City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn

It was easy to see how that oddity could cause the project some problems. But the project also faced a more traditional hurdle: Lots of neighbors who didn’t want an apartment complex built next to their single family homes. The group had plenty of insight into how to fight City Hall. Former Mayor Mike Amyx is part of the neighborhood that abuts the proposed project.

The comprehensive plan issue gave neighbors a point to argue. They could legitimately say that when they bought their houses they had reason to believe they would be living next to offices, not apartments. That is what the plan called for.

But, it wasn’t certain that planning commissioners would feel that way. The city’s planning staff recommended approval of the comprehensive plan change, noting that there already are apartments just southeast of the site. Plus, the staff report noted that KU’s continued redevelopment of the southern part of its campus and the potential redevelopment of West Campus may create more demand for residential development in south Lawrence. The staff also noted that the city has been promoting the idea of infill development rather than pushing large projects to the edge of town.

This project, which certainly would have added at least $10 million to the property tax base, is a good example of the pitfalls of infill development. Getting a plan that meets the approval of neighbors is almost harder than building in a pasture on the edge of town.

The denial of the comprehensive plan amendment should kill this particular project. Unlike most planning commission items, a comprehensive plan amendment is difficult for the City Commission to overturn. Plus, the City Commission would likely react much the same way to neighbors' concerns as the Planning Commission did.

I’ve reached out to Gilbane officials to get a reaction. Technically, the current zoning on the property — a residential/office designation — allows for some types of medium density residential development, but it would require major changes to the plan and its scope. I’ll let you know if I hear something from the development group.

And don’t worry, there will be plenty of other apartment projects to keep an eye on. The big one is a 784-bedroom proposal on 27 acres of land south of the Iowa Street Walmart. The development would stretch all the way to the South Lawrence Trafficway. That project should have an easier path to approval. It already has apartment zoning in place.

As we reported earlier this week, the other project to watch is a 192-bedroom apartment complex near the southwest corner of 23rd Street and O’Connell Road. That property also already has multi-family zoning in place.

Comments

Bob Smith

How do you spell NIMBY?

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

Alex Landazuri

also, im guessing bob smith is a pseudonym since someone else made that exact same argument on commissioner herbert's facebook page. nice to know you dont have the courage to use your real name.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Bob Smith

That's another thing you are wrong about, Alex. BTW, my comment wasn't exactly original or copyrighted. Have fun storming the castle.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

why should people care about your opinion on this matter? you dont live in the area effected and dont have a child at the daycare. go back to your dark basement. looks like my first reply offended your snowflake sensibilities. you attack people all the time and your posts never get taken down. id like the staff to say what was wrong about the previous post.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Nick Gerik

Hi, Alex. We removed your comment because the first sentence encouraged self-harm.

— Nick Gerik, LJW digital editor

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

it was an expression not a suggestion.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Steve Jacob

Nick, are we getting to the point where "snowflake" can be considered offensive? It is meant to degrade. Something to think about.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Matthew Cosgrove

hmm looks like more than one person feels the way I feel. Nice.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

seems like you are the only 2. maybe you should start a club

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Bob Smith

Gosh, Alex, chill out, you'll do yourself a mischief.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

back to my original question, why should your opinion matter more than those that were in the immediate neighborhood?

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Bob Smith

This is a forum for expressing opinions. In this arena, my opinion carries the same weight as yours.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

ok....then why should this have been allowed to proceed? it usually helps to start with that rather than insulting people.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Bob Smith

People read these threads for many reasons. Sometimes they may just be looking for a laugh. You've provided a couple of those today.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

Ill take that response and your continued avoidance to answering the question to state that your only intention was to troll. If that is what you have to do to be happy, I pity you..

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Bob Smith

"....why should this have been allowed to proceed?..." That's entertainment.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Bob Smith

BTW, I don't have a basement. That is yet another thing you are wrong about. I never even saw your first reply. One more thing you are wrong about.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

the basement comment was rhetorical bob.....guess it went over your head

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Bob Smith

You should use {} to enclose rhetorical comments. Hard to discern that for just a short post.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Steve Jacob

$10M in property tax base when? You know they would ask for millions in tax savings. The end is the building boom might be near. Seen interest rates since the tax cuts? Seen the dollar since Sec. Mnuchin comments on the lower dollar being a good thing? Inflation is going to hit us hard soon. Gas already was up to $2.66 one place today and will only go higher this summer.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Jake Davis

I am glad the commissioners listened to the residents. This was not a good fit for the area. I like the infill proposal but there are better options out there.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Steve Jacob

That is a very polite ways to say NIMBY.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Alex Landazuri

how is that a polite way to say nimby?

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

So why don't you let them build it next to your house, Steve? Or do you live in a house? Thanks for listening to your constituents and not developers, and sticking to the plan.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Steve Jacob

You want affordable housing in Lawrence. Farther west they build apartments, the more expensive they will be.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

I agree on the affordable housing, but these are going to be for students, so there won't be anything affordable about them. Even as the build more and more of these student apartment complexes, the rents in other places don't seem to be going down any to fill vacancies.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Melissa Kounelaki

This is good news indeed! Thank you, commissioners for listening to the neighbors and making the right decision.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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David Holroyd

Will the commission encourage more apartments EAST of town...the commisson will favor that plan.

What about the bribery charges Gilbane was cited for?

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Greg DiVilbiss

I lived in the neighborhood to the south and decided to move into an established neighborhood that was surrounded by houses. At the time I felt that student housing was not something I would want to live next to. As it turns out, I see little problem with student housing that has developed in that area anymore.

I understand why office would be attractive to the neighbors however, it is interesting that this is the second project that has been the focus of neighbor angst and looks like it is a dead end for developers.

My feeling has been if you are next to empty land you really never know what is going to go there as plans and zoning change.

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Richard Heckler

Where are the tenants coming from that can possibly fill all of those bedrooms.

If an applicant does not have 95% occupancy under 5 year contracts before construction how in the world can government allow one penny in tax goodies?

How many new projects of the past 5 years have 100% occupancy?

How many new vacancies are the new projects creating?

Perhaps commissioners need to review the tool(s) planning staff had at their disposal that would accept such intrusion.

$10 million new tax dollars to the property tax base?? How many years later would that be true?

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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Richard Heckler

"My feeling has been if you are next to empty land you really never know what is going to go there as plans and zoning change."

The neighborhood maybe should take a look around for empty spaces to get them down zoned....

3 weeks, 5 days ago

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David Holroyd

Richard, didn't Menards get a rezoning. Maybe a nice Mausoleum could be built at the site that Gilbane (bribery charges?) wanted to build on.

It would be NEW and the city commission wouldn't have to fix the Oak Hill Mausoleum which is long past due.

The neighorhood would benefit with a quiet residents living nearby.

Was wondering if Mayor Amyx lived near there?

What would have John Stavros thought about it?

3 weeks, 4 days ago

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Richard Heckler

How can the county commission and the city commission justify preferential tax breaks for the few while at the same time increasing our taxes?

In this environment it seems all should be paying all of the taxes no matter what.

3 weeks, 3 days ago

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Carol Bowen

“The staff also noted that the city has been promoting the idea of infill development rather than pushing large projects to the edge of town.”

The planning staff should understand that Infill should complement its surrounding land use, blend in. The proposed project is not suitable infill. It encroaches and insults neighboring land use. The Planning department has the idea that large multi family development is a buffer for single family residential. Not. Especially not in a college town.

It is possible to develop the land, but the development should reflect and blend into the area. Development should be more than plunking in some mass produced shovel ready plan.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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David Holroyd

Carol, how many years, decades has that property sit vacant. I remember all the talk about an office park. Well it hasn't happened and it won't.

It is surrouned by a church, condos and houses and KU parking lot..yes, KU, Everyone is a neighbor in Lawrence.

I suppose that if you want houses, the city can pay the top price and build housing for LOW INCOME..which in Lawrence translates to FREE.

How many years has the property sat vacant and undeveloped. There is a reason.

A very good reason.

3 weeks, 2 days ago

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