Lawrence City Commission approves requests to allow west Lawrence housing development

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday approved requests to rezone property, change lot size requirements and more to allow a developer to build 14 single-family homes on the west side of town.

The development is proposed near Research Park Drive and West 18th Street. It’s south of Bridge Haven Memory Care and northwest of Lawrence Family Practice Center.


Developer Roger Johnson said he intended the homes to be a community for folks ages 55 and up, and the sidewalks and lawns would be maintained by a homeowners association.

Some of the neighbors objected to the project, mainly because they thought the proposal included too many homes for the space. Some said the density would be too high, and it could cause issues with drainage or add to traffic concerns on the nearby streets.

Johnson said he was willing to consider a smaller number of homes if commissioners could guarantee him he would not have to go through the Planning Commission to get approval for the project again. The Planning Commission had voted almost unanimously in favor of each request associated with the project.

Developer Roger Johnson speaks to the Lawrence City Commission on Aug. 15, 2023. (Screenshot / City of Lawrence YouTube)

“If I get turned down tonight, I’m going to give it to Rebecca (Buford, executive director of Tenants to Homeowners). I’m going to donate it to her,” he said.

Johnson mentioned that the city is working on changes to its land development code, and he said Buford could “come back and do this without any of this” once code changes are finalized. Buford was not present for the meeting, but Johnson said he works with Tenants to Homeowners.

“This is the last dance for me. You guys decide whatever you want. At this point, I’m at your mercy,” Johnson said. “I would like to do this. If I don’t do this, I don’t care. I’ll just help Rebecca do it later.”

The requests were expected to be on the consent agenda but were moved to the regular agenda before the meeting.

Vice Mayor Bart Littlejohn and Mayor Lisa Larsen said they would approve the project as it was proposed.

Commissioners Courtney Shipley and Amber Sellers both said they would have liked to see a compromise of limiting the project to a slightly less dense 10 or 11 homes, and they were disappointed that the commission couldn’t reach a compromise.


The commission voted on four items:

Rezoning the property to the proper residential district for the plan passed 4-1. Commissioner Brad Finkeldei, Larsen, Littlejohn and Sellers voted in favor; Shipley voted against.
A preliminary development plan passed 3-2. Finkeldei, Larsen and Littlejohn voted in favor; Sellers and Shipley voted against.
A request to approve excess parking passed 3-2. Finkeldei, Larsen and Littlejohn voted in favor; Sellers and Shipley voted against.
A request to reduce the minimum lot size from 3,000 square feet to 2,414 square feet passed 5-0. Finkeldei, Larsen, Littlejohn, Sellers and Shipley all voted in favor.

The red pin on the map below shows the approximate location of the planned development:

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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.

More coverage of housing and homelessness:

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times

City, Lawrence Community Shelter board plan massive expansion of shelter’s capacity, closure of North Lawrence camp

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With the number of people living outside estimated at more than 3 times what it was last year, the Lawrence Community Shelter board has agreed to vastly expand the shelter’s capacity for the winter, and the city is looking to close the North Lawrence campsite.


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