Archive for Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Industrial park locations in county to be discussed

September 9, 2008

Right now the intersection of Kansas Highway 33 and U.S. Highway 56 in southeast Douglas County looks like many other rural corners - a couple of houses and a couple of pastures.

But in the future it could be the home to a new industrial park designed to take advantage of the planned transportation hub being built by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad in nearby Gardner.

At least that's what a new plan that city and county leaders will soon debate says.

Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting tonight will consider adopting a new industrial chapter of Horizon 2020, the long-range comprehensive plan of the city and county.

The new chapter lists 11 general areas of the county that seem suited for future industrial or business park development. Economic development leaders are urging approval of the plan.

"We don't have a lot of land in our inventory right now," said Beth Johnson, vice president of economic development with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. "We really need to increase that inventory in order for businesses to even look at us."

The list of possible locations include several that have been talked about for years. Property near the Lawrence Municipal Airport continues to be listed as a possible site, despite commissioners being lukewarm to a recent proposal to rezone approximately 145 acres in the area to allow for industrial development.

Both commissioners Rob Chestnut and Boog Highberger said Monday they were open to leaving the airport location in the plan, but said that doesn't mean they are ready to support the current proposal for development in the area.

"There is probably some room for industrial development in North Lawrence in the future, but you still have to take into account the specific drainage issues and the impact it would have on prime agricultural soils," Highberger said. "I don't think this plan commits us to any specific sites."

Other sites listed in the plan include: the former Farmland Industries property east of Lawrence; the area south and east of O'Connell Road and Kansas Highway 10 near the Douglas County Jail; the area near the Farmers Turnpike and Interstate 70; the area near the South Lawrence Trafficway and U.S. Highway 40 west of Lawrence; an area near the Midland Junction north of North Lawrence; two areas along K-10 highway near Eudora; an area near Baldwin City; and an area near the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and U.S. Highway 56.

But several commissioners and economic development leaders have said they want to make sure that other sites not included in the list of 11 can be considered in the future too.

"I don't want this to be an exclusive list," Chestnut said. "I don't think there is anyway for us to anticipate what all the relevant sites may be 10 years from now."

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. If city commissioners approve the plan, it still must be approved by Douglas County commissioners before it becomes final.

- City reporter Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362.

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