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.”
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters
More local government coverage:
Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday voted unanimously to allow staff to seek out professional design services for a project to waterproof and repair the basement of the historic county courthouse.
Changes are coming to the way people get around town in Lawrence. City staff and steering committee members want to hear from the public about the future for pedestrians and transit riders.
The Lawrence school board on Monday will receive an update on behavioral incidents, restorative practices and more from the first quarter, plus consider ratifying a contract with the district’s hourly employees.
People living in Brookwood Mobile Home Park say they’ve faced challenges ranging from delayed maintenance and sewage in the streets to rejection of rental assistance and threats of eviction.
As part of an ongoing budget request to the Douglas County Commission for $227K, Heartland Community Health Center staff shared plans Wednesday for their new facility, efforts toward inclusivity and search for a new CEO.
Heartland in recent years has seen turnover in leadership, at times declining to answer questions regarding who was at the organization’s helm, but that has not slowed its expansion.