Officers present: Ted, Jeff, Alison
Neighbors present: 18
Ted called the meeting to order at 7:02 PM.
Ted opened the meeting with the notification about the Potluck Picnic on Monday, September 12, 5:20 pm at Lyons park shelter. All are welcome.
The picnic shelter at Lyons Park is scheduled to be replaced in 2024. The playground will be replaced in 2023, and the new sprinkle park should start construction in late 2022.
We are staying on the city about adding plumbed restrooms at John Taylor Park, which is the most pressing facility need in our parks. Unfortunately the cost of doing the pre-fab construction for this restroom increased more than $50K since the last time we asked for it 3 years ago (from $85K to over $140K). So that project is still on the back burner. Ted says he hopes we can find some grant or stimulus money to build the restrooms at John Taylor, perhaps earlier than 2024.
We are still advocating for the return of tennis courts to one of our parks (either Lyons or John Taylor) without the removal of existing basketball courts — though the existing courts at John Taylor could be converted to half-court so a full tennis court and wall could be put in. The tennis courts in John Taylor were converted to pickle ball courts without input from North Lawrence residents. Even though the sport is popular, tennis is actually more popular with our neighbors, and the loss of the courts has had a negative impact on our neighborhood. Tennis is also considerably more quiet than pickle ball. Apparently the noise is not just a local problem; there are complaints about the noise nationwide according to parks and rec.
A resident who lives across from John Taylor said that dozens of people use the basketball courts at John Taylor for a number of activities, not just basketball; the basketball court has become a multi-purpose surface for different styles of basketball games, learning to ride bikes, dances, and other community activities.
A resident commented that the USTA (United States Tennis Association) could be consulted regarding what type of tennis wall to ask for that also insured that the sound of the wall was not disruptive to neighbors. They suggested that we reclaim one set of courts at Lyons Park where there is already a good setup for tennis if we have them re-paint the lines.
Lyons park is a “regional” park, meaning it belongs to the entire area, where John Taylor is a neighborhood park, meaning it is “our” park and NLIA can actually have a say in what goes on there. Lyons park was developed with CDBG money, which made access to and governance of it regional/citywide rather than a neighborhood park. This is why a decision could be made to change the courts without our input.
A resident asked how many pickle ball courts there are south of the river. A resident also said they’d go well in Dad Perry Park, because there are fewer houses in that area.
Apparently pickle ball players at Lyons park have complained that people playing basketball who bring radios and music players are disruptive to their pickle ball practice. How they can hear the music over the noise of pickle ball is a mystery,
We do not want any more pickle ball courts in North Lawrence and we will do the best to conserve the recreation facilities we have without removal of any courts. Ted said they city could put pickle ball out by the airport on city land there.
North Lawrence is one of the only neighborhoods that has steadily been growing, with 8-10 new houses built every year, and more middle and higher income residents moving to the neighborhood each year, enough so that we are no longer considered a low-to-moderate-income neighborhood according to HUD (which means we lost our CBDG funding).
Ted talked about the city and the historic Mill street (the alley behind Elm street, 300 and 400 block). When a resident in the 400 block asked the city to trim trees in that alley, the city said they would not, because it was Mill street, and the city had vacated it, so did not have any authority over those trees. The city also was unwilling to pick up trash in the alley (former Mill street) because they had vacated the street. There had been street signs, but they were taken out. The city said that the residents inherited “half the alley” so the trees —and putting their trash out front of their homes instead of behind — was the residents’ responsibility.
Ted argued that there was a city sewer running through the alley, but the city said because the property was reverted to the residents, they would have to ask each owner for access to the properties to work on the sewers. But then… Jon Davis (who also owns historic Lonnie’s) bought the lot behind the church on historic Mill street and he wanted to put three houses there. Ted owned a piece of the west end of that lot. Jon and Ted talked about storm water issues, putting three houses there, including Ted’s piece. Each property could then take care of their own storm water. BUT THEN! Planning at the city didn’t know where Mill street had been — they thought it had run through Walnut Park. None of the new city maps had Mill Street on it where it historically was — the new maps had Mill erroneously in Walnut Park, in an area which is actually a driveway. Ted gave Jon a 1950s map to take to the city. Then the city said they *hadn’t* vacated Mill street!
Ted then talked with each commissioner about these issues with Mill street. (Ted meets with each commissioner individually once a month and has done so for 12 years). Ted then got a letter from Diane Stoddard that said that Mill street *wasn’t* vacated. He had a meeting with Brad Finkeldei after that, and Ted let him know that folks in NL were being called liars because of the Mill street issue. He said that the commission would generally made decisions based on staff recommendations rather than community members’ input (at meetings and letters, etc). Fast forward to 2022, and the city wants Jon to put in a cement street from 4th street 120 feet down the alley to the west, curbed and guttered, 20 feet wide, so he can build the houses. It will take 10 feet of property off of the houses on the North side of the street. There isn’t a single place in NL where any resident or developer has had to do this, and the only streets that are 20 feet wide are Locust, parts of Elm, and parts of Lyon. Stormwater asked where the water from that concrete strip would go; apparently the fire department wants this, though — so they don’t have to back up their fire trucks. Now they are talking about putting in a “hammerhead” so that fire trucks can pull in and do a three-point turn to get back out. Ted said the sanitation trucks *back down the alley* 2-3 times a week!
The fire department has been driving its new ladder truck through North Lawrence to practice driving on small streets. This is one that steers from the rear. They haven’t been practicing backing up, though. Ted says the reason the city got it is for the university and its tall buildings on West Campus. The previous fire truck was purchased in 2008 for close to $5 million.
The reason the city wanted a new Mill street built at the expense of the developer so supposedly they could pull up in front of these proposed new houses was so the big fire trucks could pull in and pull through. Ted said that the new hook and ladder truck could get 360 access to these houses. Ted said that he’s seen the truck parked on Walnut street, the ladder crossed the levy, and used to put out fires set by transients in the woods by the river. So that ladder could reach anywhere the truck could go. If Jon has to put in the street, the lots alone will cost $150K EACH before the houses are BUILT.
This is NOT the affordable housing we need — the city’s requirements will cause them to be $400K houses once built because of this new street being built. The proposed concrete road will also increase storm water issues in Walnut Park. We don’t need this.
Ted said this is why we need neighbors to let us know what is going on in the neighborhood — he knows a lot, but doesn’t always hear everything. If he hears about it, he can take it to the city.
A resident asked about the property owners who will lose 10 feet of property if the new street is built — the city thinks that the residents are going to allow it, but it’ll take garages out! One resident has already talked with a lawyer. If the street is owned by the residents, could they sell historic Mill back to the city? The city is now denying that they said they vacated Mill Street.
Ted said we had funding from CBDG for speed humps on Lincoln Street and were slated to start construction on them, but then a city engineer wanted to take over the project. Taxpayer money went to pay for the four speed humps rather than our grant money. Lincoln street is now “Lincoln Blvd” because at the time the “improvements” out at 21st and Louisiana needed to be completed and Lincoln needed to be re-designated so Lawrence could be “eligible” for those improvements — south of the river. There was no benefit to North Lawrence at all. Ted asked if we could transfer the money allocated to the Lincoln speed humps to Lyon Street, and it was — but there is on less bump on Lyon street, so we lost $8000 (the grant for one speed hump) and that money went to the city’s general fund rather than to another project in North Lawrence — even though it was federal grant money that we were given for North Lawrence!
Speed humps for Walnut Street were slated to be next but we had lost our CBDG money, so had to ask the city for money instead. We got almost 100% of residents (70% is required) to agree to the speed humps, and the petition was sent in to the city. Even though every single property owner said yes, the city denied it because of the new traffic safety committee. This committee was led by the same engineer involved in the Mill Street debacle. Ted said the city could put in the plastic, temporary humps, like the ones on Maine Street, rather than build the more expensive concrete ones. They city still said no.
Even getting a street light in the middle of the block on Pleasant is a fight with this city. Most residents want this light, but the city says if they get one, everyone in the city will want one.
Ted said our census is over 3200 folks — up almost 1000 folks in the past 20 years. We have a bigger head count, and we can make more noise at the city and fight to get what we actually want in this neighborhood.
Ted showed attendees the proposal for the new river walkways/bikeways, one of which has been in the works since 2016. One of the walkways will get funded in 2024 and they are looking for grant money to fund that and the second one. These would connect south of the river to north of the river more easily for bikes and pedestrians, including the north end of Massachusetts street (behind Johnny’s). He said that they are still working on the project behind Johnny’s — along with a grocery store. They are soliciting five different grocery stores to come to that property.
Ted went on to talk about the unhoused population in Lawrence. The current city government is welcoming of the unhoused population. 70% of these folks are from out of town/county/state and are no longer seasonal. 30% are more local. The city had more amenities for the unhoused starting in 2020 with the pandemic, and that made most of the formerly seasonal unhoused folks stay in Lawrence. Lawrence is apparently now well-known worldwide as a welcoming government for transients. Ted said we are seeing a trend where the formerly transient population threatening the resident population and deterring them from getting services at Ballard and other places. Ted said the folks living behind Johnny’s right now are generally from our local population. He said that the transient population is just here to take the services the city offers, not to stay here or work here. The shelter has container homes available now onsite, with central air and heating, but they are not currently housing anyone in those homes. The shelter did not want people housed on the property in tents or smaller buildings, even though the proposal was on county land.
Some neighbors are more welcoming of temporary residents, especially the folks who are willing to work, but there have been some tent camps broken up, mostly on rental properties where the owners were not aware of the campers. Folks who have wanted to put campers or tiny houses on county properties have been dissuaded from doing so because the county want the property owners to put in sewer systems to serve even temporary residents.
A resident asked if the city wants the transients to be temporarily housed in North Lawrence. Ted shot down the idea of having a tent city behind Johnny’s after the one at Woody Park was disbanded. Ted said that North Lawrence is not a welcoming community for the 70% transient/seasonal unhoused people. The city has two people who monitor this population.
There have been multiple conflicts between the transient population and the folks we know who are from here, along with reports of people trespassing, peeping in windows, starting fires, and chanting that they were going to kill the residents in the areas of the camps. The residents were told by the police department to not report the population unless they were caught in the act of committing a crime, and to call their city commissioners instead if they had a problem. The city walked back on this when Ted confronted them about this, however.
A resident brought up the idea that North Street had been rezoned recently. Ted said he would look into this with the city and county.
Ted invited any resident to attend his regular meetings that he hold with individual commissioners at the coffee shop each month. Ted said he may consider letting folks know (on Facebook) when he’s having these meetings, so a few of us can also talk directly to each commissioner. If you want to attend when he does, give Ted a call.
Kirsty talked to us about the survey that she and another resident have been working on for the past few weeks. We need to continue publicizing that we are doing this survey so we can try to reach every resident who wants to respond. She and her son went door-to-door with 450 flyers recently, and we’ve gotten a fairly healthy response so far. We have 123 responses so far, some from the flyers, some from the Facebook notifications, some requesting paper copies of the survey via email.
Kirsty said that what she is seeing is that we all seem to live up here for the same reasons — the diversity, that it feels like a neighborhood, and that we help each other out. Kirsty will run a report that residents will be able to see, so folks can see the consensus in what everyone is talking about. We all want a grocery store; we definitely have opinions and stories regarding the unhoused populations and their respect or lack thereof of our neighborhood and parks, but we aren’t heartless regarding them; the lighting, ditches, speed, bar noises, train horns, loose dogs, drug houses, sidewalk and road maintenance, and park amenities, safety, and saving our neighborhood school are ongoing issues; people asked about helping residents keep up their yards and homes. Kirsty said there were fabulous ideas how to raise money for NLIA as well, such as a neighbor-run carnival at Lyons park.
A resident asked what we expect from the survey. Ted said that we want to present this information to the city so they understand what residents up here actually want. This is the first year of this type of engagement, and we plan to continue this in subsequent years so we really can represent the people who live here. Ted will also talk to the LJW and Chad Lawhorn so he can also highlight what we are doing and wanting up here and issues on which we have consensus (which are many). We will present some of the survey findings this fall via the website and post to Facebook as well. Kirsty said that we forgot to ask how many people are in each responding household on the survey.
One of the fights we will still face in the future will be the fight to save Woodlawn School. The neighborhood is incredibly supportive of this school staying open, regardless of what the school board decides is best for their budget. Woodlawn in one of the biggest draws to new residents of North Lawrence. A resident said that Woodlawn can always use donations to support the families in purchasing school supplies each year. The first day of school this year is August 17th. Woodlawn was completely renovated about 4 years ago, and is one of our top schools in the entire city. Ted has been on the site committee for the school for many years.
The issue of closing inner-city, core schools and busing those students to expensive, newly-built schools out west has been going on for decades in Lawrence. Neighborhood schools are core institutions in our historic neighborhoods.
Ted mentioned resurrecting the Sandrat reunion for 2023 if public health issues allow it. This event is usually held the first Saturday in June.
A resident asked if the city could put portable restrooms at the park in John Taylor. Ted said that at Hobbs Park (the baseball diamond) as well as downtown has portable restrooms with wooden enclosures around them. Mark H had said that the city didn’t like to install these because they get tipped over and vandalized. The one in Hobbs has been secured to the ground, though. Ted will ask Mark why there is one of these at Hobbs park but not one at John Taylor. The resident said that there are trailer-style bathrooms with holding tanks available as well. Ted will ask parks and recreation about this so we at least try to get something installed soon.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:44 pm. Then we did the drawing.