Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lawrence wants county help with airport business park

November 1, 2007

Taxpayers from all across Douglas County will be asked to help pay for infrastructure improvements for a proposed business park near Lawrence Municipal Airport.

Lawrence city commissioners alerted Douglas County Commissioners at a joint study session Monday that the county will be asked to finance certain road improvements related to a plan to redevelop 144 acres near the intersection of North Seventh Street and U.S. Highway 24-40.

"We're going to be coming to you and asking for help because there is no way we can do it on our own," City Commissioner Mike Amyx told county commissioners.

But even with that help, the airport business park still may be a financial stretch for the city, some commissioners said. City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said he wanted to make sure the city didn't forget about infrastructure improvements needed to turn the former Farmland Industries site east of Lawrence into a business park.

"It comes down to an issue of scarce capital," said Chestnut, who said he supported the idea of a business park near the airport but was uncertain the city could afford to fund infrastructure at both sites.

City commissioners are in the process of making a bid to purchase the former Farmland Industries site, which is about three times the size of the proposed airport park.

City Manager David Corliss said he wasn't in a position to say how much public improvements might cost for the airport project but indicated such estimates might be available early next week.

County Commissioner Charles Jones said he thought the airport project ought to slow down until the cost question could be answered.

"It seems like we have gotten to detailed negotiations before we have answered the threshold question of what is the total cost of the project, and does it make sense," Jones said.

The project near the airport is being proposed by a development group led by Lawrence businessman Jes Santaularia.

While Santaularia has said his group would pay for all the infrastructure needed on the project's 144 acres, he wants public funding to help with offsite improvements -- specifically, extending water and sewer service to the site.

The project also would require work at the intersection of North Seventh Street and Highway 24-40. That is the project the county likely would be asked to fund. The intersection is outside the city limits, and a recent traffic study found that it should be improved regardless of whether the airport business park is built.

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