Lawrence City Commission approves annexation and rezoning for school, housing in northwest

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The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday approved a request to annex about 61 acres and rezone the space to allow for a new school and about 200 new homes.

The area is about two-thirds of a mile north of Peterson (North 1700) Road, and roughly between North Monterey Way and Folks (East 1100) Road. The boundary to the north nears Interstate 70.

Approximately 8 acres will be zoned in order to be occupied by an elementary school in the Perry-Lecompton school district. Another 12.2 acres will be open space.

The remaining 40.8 acres will be zoned for single-family houses. The developer said the diagrams depicted about 200 lots in that area, though that could fluctuate.

“It’s a pretty tough area to develop, some steeper slopes and some rocky areas,” Adam Williams told commissioners. “So we’ll do our best to get that density up as high as we can.”

The red pin shows the approximate center of the 61 acres.

Asked about affordable housing, Williams said he would be comfortable planning for three units to be sold at cost.

“Again, we haven’t done the final planning so we don’t know exactly what the costs are going to be of this project,” he said. “So we feel comfortable that three is attainable for us.”

Deputy City Attorney Randy Larkin said under state law, the commission cannot approve or deny land requests based on potential for affordable housing, nor can it require a commitment to build affordable housing in order to approve a zoning request.

Michael Almon of the Sustainability Action Network gave public comment during the meeting. He asked commissioners to change the zoning from single-family homes to multifamily dwellings such as duplexes, triplexes and townhomes.

“The development may not be a gated community, but the vast majority of low-moderate (income) folks will be excluded by the single-dwelling price points,” he said.

The land is just outside the Lawrence school district’s boundaries and inside Perry-Lecompton’s. In order for a school to be built, voters in that district would have to approve a bond issue, Commissioner Brad Finkeldei said.

J.B. Elliott, superintendent of Perry-Lecompton schools, told the commission that the district would be interested in having a school there because the district is already serving students from some parts of northwestern Lawrence. As development continues toward the north and west, having a school there would benefit students by cutting down on their travel time, he said.

The thin, dark line on this map shows the Lawrence Public Schools and Perry-Lecompton school district boundary.

Several neighbors wrote public comments about their concerns. Some said the plan could compromise the rural nature of the area; for instance, one wrote that they had concerns about losing the quiet and “the chance to see the stars. More traffic and lights will change our area.”

Others shared concerns about the wildlife in the area and disruption of the natural habitats. Some said development and additional traffic was already causing issues with the roads and pavement that would worsen with traffic for a school, plus they shared safety concerns for area bicyclists and pedestrians.

Commissioners approved four agenda items connected to the project — first, annexation of the land into Lawrence city limits, which passed 5-0. The other three were zoning changes for each of the three areas, which all passed 4-1, with Mayor Courtney Shipley opposed.

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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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