Notes from November Meeting and a flier

Thanks for your patience, everyone. I’ve got a back-log of notes I need to go through from previous months (and years), and have been trying to figure out the best way to log these without clogging up the website. I’ll do my best to get those back-posted over the winter months.

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NLIA meeting, Monday, November 18th, 7pm, Peace Mennonite Church

Officers present: Ted and Alison

Neighbors present: 18 (including our Mayor and a future commissioner)

Ted gave a treasurer’s report. It was available for attendees to view at the front table.

Ted talked about the Christmas donations. Beverly, who used to collect the money, reminded us that businesses expect all of their donations to go into the Christmas accounts, rather than the treasury for NLIA. Ted said that we don’t use any of the Christmas money for operations expenses for NLIA.

Ted asked for volunteers for the Christmas collection project. The last year that Beverly collected the money was 2017 — after fifteen years of collecting! Ted and Jeff collected in 2018 (and really missed Beverly). NLIA could use people to help this year so Ted isn’t trying to do everything on his own. We usually collect around $5000 per year and help between four and six families.

The Ballard Center already has four families in mind; NLIA always takes on more families and folks than originally planned, but is are able to do this because businesses and individuals in the neighborhood are so generous this time of year. A majority of our local businesses regularly support this project and write large checks for these families. NLIA spends the money on gift cards to major retailers, grocery cards, gas cards, and gift items from the families’ lists.

The families all live in North Lawrence, so the money and benefits stay here. NLIA coordinates with the Ballard Center to get the cards, and gifts to them on time so that the families can pick them up before the holiday.

Ted went on to talk about the approval for double-density in Lawrence. North Lawrence has serious stormwater problems already, so the more rooftops and the less ground we have for water to percolate through, the more trouble we will have with stormwater runoff. We have had the 6.6 million dollar pump for four years now, but it has only been used at about half-capacity so far, even with the torrential storms we’ve seen since 2017. This isn’t because we don’t have the stormwater; it’s because we cannot get the water to the pump. The ditches aren’t directed to the Maple Street pump drainage areas the way they need to be. Ted said that the city was supposed to reconfigure all of the ditches and driveway tubes starting four years ago (under the pretense that they could do it more cheaply than contracting it out). So far they have done Locust and Perry streets for just a few blocks. They have dug out some other ditches, like along Lincoln Street, but they are still problems and the ditches do not all drain toward the drainage areas that take water to the pump. The city does not allocate enough money for most projects, definitely not for North Lawrence, and they usually run out of money for projects within three months of the new year.

Ted met with the mayor last week about double-density as well as the stormwater issues. He said that double-density is only raising property values rather than solving our affordable housing issues. East Lawrence, Pinckney, and Brook Creek are experiencing the same issues as we are (driving up housing costs) but North Lawrence is especially going to continue to experience stormwater problems as density increases. Double-density is not the solution to affordable housing in Lawrence. While we believe smaller houses can fill one niche, that of young people graduating college and wanting to settle down in Lawrence and perhaps helping retiring or single people who want to downsize, it does not fill the gap for families who need larger spaces with enough bedrooms.

Ted has asked Matt Bond if double-density would raise flood insurance prices. Matt said that FEMA does a study every five years and we would have to wait until we are re-evaluated to find out.

Ted has talked with some people who own lots in North Lawrence who are considering raising the prices on their lots to be competitive with West Lawrence prices, or else sitting on their properties rather than selling. One of the reasons that double-density builders are predating on our neighborhood (and the other lower-income neighborhoods) is the cheaper prices of our lots. These developers have no consideration for the fact that they are going to cause storm water runoff problems for current and future owners once they cover those lots with roofs and non-permeable structures such as driveways and patios.

We have had more than 12 new houses built in North Lawrence since the beginning of 2019. These, however, have been more of the usual 2-and-3-bedroom houses, not tiny houses.

Double-density will change how FEMA looks at the stormwater situation in North Lawrence, but the survey won’t be immediate. We are protected by a levee, and it’s less likely for the river to overcome the levee to cause a flood situation. In an actual flood situation, it is more likely that storm water accumulating and running toward the river is what will inundate houses and roads and cause hazards and damage.

ALL of the stormwater that hits North Lawrence has to be pumped out; it has no place to run otherwise. When people build houses on land that previously served the purpose of stormwater percolation and protection, there is no place for the water to go except into our basements, garages, and foundations.

785-832-3400 is the phone number of the new city manager, Craig Owens. Ted encourages you to call if you have any questions.

A resident commented on affordable housing. She said that lots bigger than 7K square feet can be divided, but RS5 need to apply for special permits. Ted said that many of the smallest lots we had in North Lawrence were RS7 before 25 years ago. Then the city pushed RS5 zoning, and because North Lawrence already believed this was too small of a lot to handle stormwater, we were the last neighborhood to agree to the zoning. The neighbor said that they must consider these issues if they are building houses on a smaller lot. Ted says no they do not. Alison concurred that neither the developers or the city take these factors into consideration when they build here.

A resident suggested that we need, as a neighborhood to focus on overall permeability of the land for each site, not only new build, so it would apply for people who were remodeling, putting in impermeable driveways, etc. This idea would ensure that we can have each property have as much permeable land as it needs for stormwater abatement, not just the older and existing properties.

A resident asked about the rules regarding bringing in clay soil to build up house foundations, which some developers are still bringing in. This is not supposed to happen, but clearly, it still does.

The city is also supposed to allow each homeowner to keep all of the soil dug out of their  front ditches. They are supposed to ask the homeowners where they can place the soil on the property if they wish to keep it. They city did not do this on Lincoln Street when they worked recently, even though Ted called the city and also chased the trucks to see where they went with the soil.

Ted has been talking with Matt Bond at Stormwater Engineering for years about stormwater control, and said the the city made a plan about four years ago to have engineering studies done whenever big projects happen. However, nobody is sure what happened to that idea. Ted feels like he has been singing the song of the stormwater and the grocery store over and over and over again, for years and years.

Double-density isn’t a bad idea, and North Lawrence Improvement Association isn’t against the idea of smaller housing per se. It will only become a problem when new build affects stormwater and existing structures in a negative way, as we have already seen with regular-sized housing and lots.

A resident asked about maintenance of ditches. Keeping the ditches free of debris and weeds is the responsibility of the homeowner, but the city is responsible for directing the water toward the appropriate pumps. If your driveway tube is blocked or compromised, call the city to have them come clear it or replace it.

A resident asked about the north side of North Street, and if they could get ditches that run from about 4th down to 6th to go toward the Maple Street pump. Ted gave an example on Lake street, where the ditches had to be 4 feet deep and 3 feet wide to run properly, so the city had to put tubes in rather than keep the ditches. Ted thinks that North Street, like Lake, is so flat that ditches won’t go toward 6th. But the issue might also be that it is a city/county property line issue.

The city did purchase two new pumps for the 2nd street underpass along with a third, backup pump. However, there is still no backup generator. One time last year, a pump blew up; every other time the pumps went out, it was Westar turning out or losing the secondary power during a storm. NLIA will continue to request a natural-gas backup pump for this area.

Ted mentioned the Cabin Fever Chili Supper for February 10th at 5:30 at the Union Pacific Depot. This event will be here before we know it! The sign up sheet was available on the front table. We had seven folks signed up from last month, and over 18 people in the room (a majority of whom hadn’t signed up yet…). Alison will be in contact with everyone who signs up.

Ted read a letter from the plant manager of ICL, Gordon Leong. The letter was in appreciation of NLIA and the work that we do in and for our neighborhood and the events that we hold. They are providing some operational support funds to us this year. Thanks, Gordon!

Alison talked about the chili cook-off contest that will be held at the North Lawrence Farmers Market. This event will happen at Slow Ride on Sunday, November 24th, 10am-3pm. She had fliers and information available about the event. The entry fee is a warm item of clothing to donate to Ballard Center, and all cash donations to try the chilis will go to Ballard Center.

A resident talked about the other vending market that has started on Saturdays in the Happy Shirt parking lot. This event has food trucks and live music.

Ted asked if any residents had been finding new, brighter street lights instead of their older, lower-Kelvin one. Evergy has been changing out functioning lights to blue-bright LED lights, the color of which is considered harmful to wildlife and humans. The city signed a contract with Westar saying that they weren’t supposed to do this (change out lights that were functioning, but maybe the bulb just burned out). We have already fought this fight with Westar (Evergy) about these blue-color LED lights, but we aren’t making any headway.

A resident asked if the lights can be shielded. The answer is yes; Alison will get that number and put it on Facebook and the website.

Beverly will ask Centenary United Methodist Church if we can have our customary social gathering there on Monday, December 9th, at 7pm rather than our regular business meeting, so we can view the Festival of Nativities. The festival will be held 12pm-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays, starting Saturday, December 7th. This will be the 25th year of the Festival.

The community dinner is at Centenary United Methodist church this coming Wednesday evening, November 20th, 5:30pm-7pm. It will be a Thanksgiving-style dinner. All are welcome. The church will provide turkey, ham, potatoes, and dressing. Participants can bring salads and desserts.

Ted asked for a motion to adjourn. It was put forward and seconded. All responded aye.

All neighbors and business owners in North Lawrence are welcome to attend meetings and become members of North Lawrence Improvement Association. We thank everyone who came out tonight for their generous support of our organization and our Christmas families.

 

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