Lawrence planning commission rejects revised plan for Fall Creek Villas

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After hours of discussion Wednesday evening, the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of plans for duplexes in a strip of green space in northwestern Lawrence.

Fall Creek Villas is a plan for 28 duplexes along Deerfield Creek near Kasold Drive and Tomahawk Drive, about two-thirds of a mile north of Sixth Street.

Lawrence city commissioners in April rejected the project 3-2. Developers revised the plans and brought them back to the planning commission for consideration.

Commissioners heard from many neighbors who had prepared a presentation explaining numerous concerns they had about the project. Their documentation was included with the agenda item.

The red pin on the map indicates the approximate location of the proposed development:

Several neighbors brought up the wildlife species that inhabit the creek area. Many also raised issues with existing flooding and the potential for flooding to get worse with this development in place.

Neighbors also shared their concerns about the minimal buffer between the existing homes in the area and the proposed development.

“The margin of error here is really, really narrow,” planning commissioner David Carttar said. “… I don’t see these lots 10, 15 years from now surviving without extraordinary measures.”

Some members of the Planning Commission discuss Fall Creek Villas during their Sept. 27, 2023 meeting. (Screenshot / City of Lawrence YouTube)

Commissioner Prasanth Duvvur said he was leaning toward recommending approval because the plan could help shine a light on the water issues in the area.

Commissioner Pedro Borroto said he’s a huge fan of infill development; however, he said there were no guarantees that folks would have their flooding concerns resolved.

Commissioner Chelsi Hayden said she thinks it’s important for the group to think about what kind of city they want and what they want it to look like. She said she thought they should keep mature trees and natural resources in mind.

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City staff members had recommended approval of the plans with numerous conditions.

Ultimately, planning commissioners voted 6-3 to recommend that the city deny the plans, with Carttar, Borroto, Hayden, Jane Eldredge, Sharon Ashworth and Steve Munch opposed. Duvvur, Gary Rexroad and Mike Kelso voted to recommend approval.

Commissioners did, however, agree to recommend approval of a variance that would allow developers to only construct a sidewalk along one side of the private street that would serve the housing project.

Plans will advance to the Lawrence City Commission during a meeting in the near future. Because the Planning Commission voted to recommend denial, city commissioners would need a 4-1 vote to approve the project.

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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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