Lawrence City Commission approves duplex project on 3-2 vote, despite neighborhood concerns

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The Lawrence City Commission hesitantly approved a proposed 319-bedroom duplex project on Clinton Parkway west of Iowa Street at Tuesday night’s meeting, following arguments from several neighbors about why it should be denied.  

Commissioners discussed the property’s proposed zoning and whether it meets the city’s requirements and aligns with previously approved projects before passing it on a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner Stuart Boley said although he understands the concerns of the property’s surrounding neighbors and has sympathy for them, the city did not have legal grounds to object because of the city’s definition of a duplex. “I frankly cannot provide a finding of facts and conclusions of law that I think would be sustained,” said Boley, who voted to approve the project. “It’s not what we want to do, it’s what we have to do.”  

The site plan for 2300 Crestline Drive proposes a complex of just less than 400,000 square feet, with buildings 23 to 26 feet tall. The complex includes 63 residential structures — 57 duplexes and six standalone homes — and will be just west of the First Presbyterian Church, surrounding the Lawrence Child Development Center.

Several residents involved with the church, the childcare center and the surrounding neighborhood pled their case about the impact of the project on the nearby community.  

“To be a good neighbor is to do no harm,” said Barry Williams, pastor of First Presbyterian Church. “What is proposed here is, we believe, dangerous to its neighbors.” 

Some argued that residents chose that area due to their ability to “age in place” there and worried that this complex would disrupt that. One opponent voiced concern that her grandmother who has lived there for years would not be reached by an ambulance as easily if her home was obstructed by the property. Others argued that the property would create traffic and parking problems for the church and the childcare center.  

Longtime Springwood Heights resident Pat Grzenda said that although she and her neighbors would be happy to welcome new residents to the area, she urged commissioners to seek more clarity about what the duplex development would entail.  

“We’re a real neighborhood with good people who care about their homes and care about each other,” Grzenda said. “We are not opposed to development, but we are opposed to development that is incompatible with our lovely real neighborhood.” 

After three hours of community feedback and discussion, the commission voted in favor of the project, with Vice Mayor Courtney Shipley and Commissioner Lisa Larsen voting in opposition. Larsen and Shipley cited concern about the property site plan not meeting standards of the city code as their reasoning for voting against it.


“We may be able to do it this way, of course,” Shipley said. “We’re very anxious to change our planning code, but we’re not doing that today. So at this exact moment, I am disinclined to agree that that this comports with our codes or even our Plan 2040.”

“I feel like this is a really difficult conversation, because we are very responsive to our neighborhoods,” Commissioner Jennifer Ananda said. “I think that we’ve had some really good dialogue around this, and I think that this is probably the first of many times the commission will have an opportunity to have conversations like this, especially as we look toward density and moving toward infill development.”

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