Archive for Thursday, April 12, 2001

Economy, ecology interest group searching for land

April 12, 2001

A Lawrence-Douglas County group has asked Eudora residents for help in finding land for future industrial park use.

Some members from the group, named Eco2, hosted an informal introduction meeting Tuesday at Eudora City Hall. The meeting was held to educate civic and municipal leaders along with the public on the group's mission.

Kelvin Heck, co-chair of Eco2, said the group's plan was a simple but ambitious one.

"It's a task force organized by the Chamber of Commerce in Lawrence to identify and secure a 25-year supply of industrial and business park land and a similar quantity of land for open space purposes," he said.

The group wants to provide land that would not only provide industrial uses, but also benefit ecology. With the mix, Heck said, the group hopes to find space to satisfy both environmental- and economy-minded business owners.

The group formed in April 2000, after American Eagle backed out of its plans to move to Lawrence's East Hills Business Park. He said the group was concerned that no one in the Douglas County area had a clear idea of what land could be developed for possible industrial park use. Heck said the group hopes to change that with its research.

"If a really promising company came along that we really wanted to have here, we would have nothing to show them," he said. "If we had the option of two or three parks, that would be an ideal situation I think."

Eco2 will research possible sites, then try to either purchase the land or direct city and county planners in the right direction, Heck said.

Leo Lauber of Eudora said he agreed with the concept, which is why he chose to get involved. In the early 1980s, Lauber purchased land and traded it for 93 acres at the intersection of Douglas County Road 442 and K-10 highway. That land became Intech Business Park.

Lauber said there was a great need for industrial parks to have green space or land set aside for the purpose of improving the environment. Though he's no longer active in Intech Business Park, Lauber said he has an interest in the park and any future developments in Eudora and Douglas County.

"We're looking for future land that can be developed for industry and green space," he said. "If you just move in an industrial park and don't leave any (room) for green space, you're going to have cramped communities and no parks."

The group doesn't hold elections or vote on issues, Heck said. Eco2 comprises members from the business community, Kansas University, the Lawrence City Commission, the Douglas County Commission and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to researching land possibilities, the group is conducting a labor-profile study to identify the strengths of Douglas County workers and find out what jobs they're currently holding.

Tuesday's meeting drew the interest of many Eudora officials, including four city council members, two planning commission members, chamber of commerce members and Mayor Ron Conner.

Planning commission chairman Kurt von Achen said he was happy to see the group reach out to Eudora.

"Your enthusiasm is encouraging," von Achen said at the meeting. "I appreciate you taking the time to come and speak to Eudora."

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