Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday voted 3-2 to deny a plan for a strip of duplexes in northwestern Lawrence.
The project, Fall Creek Villas, called for 14 duplex buildings — 28 total units — to be built along Deerfield Creek near Kasold Drive and Tomahawk Drive in northwestern Lawrence, about two-thirds of a mile north of Sixth Street.
Commissioners heard substantial public comment from neighbors during their March 14 meeting, and ultimately opted to request more information and defer their decision. Many neighbors — including several who came prepared with a coordinated presentation — came out to speak against the project again Tuesday.
Mayor Lisa Larsen and Commissioners Courtney Shipley and Amber Sellers voted against the project; Vice Mayor Bart Littlejohn and Commissioner Brad Finkeldei voted in favor.
Larsen, a retired geologist, said she had concerns about how the plans would altering the course of a stream. She said it can be pretty difficult, and the area has heavy slopes — an average grade of 17%, according to a letter about the project in the commission agenda.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t work, and I don’t see where there’s a lot of margin for error in this,” she said. “And that’s very concerning to me.”
Shipley agreed with Larsen’s concerns and said she didn’t think she had enough trust in the processes, or the long-term impacts of moving the stream specifically.
Sellers said she was thinking about “a lot of heavy things” regarding the project, including potential for detriment to the environment, to city infrastructure, and to the current homeowners and potential future ones, should the project be approved.
Finkeldei said he understood the concerns, but that in this vote, the project was still in early phases. It would still require a public improvement plan, and could require approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and possibly the Environmental Protection Agency.
Littlejohn said some parts of the project gave him pause, but he could see the through-line of city staff’s recommendation to approve the project.
“I don’t think I’m changed very much from my initial stance in our earlier meeting of trusting the process and trusting the engineers on this,” he said.
Commissioners briefly debated deferring the vote again to request additional information, but Larsen said she didn’t think she needed it and made a motion to deny the project.