Lawrence City Commission approves next steps toward long-term parklet program

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to move forward with an extension of the city’s temporary “parklets” while staff develops a long-term program.

The temporary right-of-way program, which occupies some downtown parking spaces for outdoor dining, was implemented to help restaurants stay in business amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It was set to expire at the end of this year, but commissioners moved Tuesday to extend the program through March 31, 2022.

A “Lawrence Listens” survey, which yielded 2,000 submissions, drew a largely positive response. Lawrence residents who visit downtown comprised 82.1% of respondents, and the survey showed that 85.6% of all respondents said if the city creates a long-term parklet program, they were either somewhat more likely (17.9%) or much more likely (67.7%) to use the businesses that have parklets.

Porter Arneill, director of communications and creative resources, noted that the online “Lawerence Listens” surveys are not scientific, nor representative of the full city population. They’re basically used like a community forum, so those who want to provide input are able to do so.

Commissioners raised several questions they’ll need staff to answer before considering a longer-term basis for the program after the end of March, however.

Some questions that recently reelected Commissioner Lisa Larsen asked include whether the city will limit the number of parklets per block, and whether someone using a parklet must have an adjacent business. Vice Mayor Courtney Shipley had questions about the cost of the public space the parklets occupy, and how businesses could be charged for their use.

The commission also:

• Approved some zoning changes for land at the intersection of Sixth Street/Highway 40 and Kansas Highway 10, at 7200 West Sixth Street. The change will allow for single-family homes to be built on land to the northwest of the intersection.

• Approved an ordinance change that will mean city staff inspects a greater proportion of landlords’ rental properties. That includes inspections of additional properties each year if a certain number of code violations are found.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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