NLIA’s annual Cabin Fever Chili Supper will be held Monday, February 10th at 5 pm at the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence, 402 N. Second Street.
This is a community event not to be missed! Whether your tastes range from mild to spicy hot, vegan to meat-laden, we will have tasty dishes for everyone to try. We even invite folks from south of the river! You might sup with the Mayor, or even the new City Manager. Who knows?
As of this writing, we need volunteers to help set up and clean up. We can always use some more soups, chilis, and sides, including desserts, salads, add-ins (cheese, sour cream) or anything else tasty you’d like to bring.
Email the Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Ted at home (see your most recent postcard or last year’s newsletter for phone numbers) to let us know how you can help and/or what you’re bringing.
NLIA provides drinks, some serving utensils, and all the bowls, plates, silverware, napkins, and all the enthusiasm we can muster to make this a fun event.
Donations to offset the costs of renting the hall and other costs incurred by NLIA are welcome.
Officers present: Ted, Jeff, Alison
Neighbors present: 13
The meeting was rescheduled from last week because Ted had a conflict with a city advisory board meeting.
Ted called the meeting to order at 7 pm. He thanked residents for coming out in the bitter cold.
Ted went to the meeting last week and the downtown zoning on North 2nd Street (formerly Bridge Street, of course!) was part of the discussion. The area goes all the way to Lyon Street, encompasses the Levee cafe, goes to the depot, and covers the area behind Johnny’s.
But Ted believes that we are not benefitting from technically being a downtown district. This year, when the city initially decorated with lights for the holidays, there was much less on the Depot. When Explore Lawrence was a tenant there (which is not a department of the city), we got accustomed to having great decorations on the building and the trees. The new management said they weren’t getting enough signatures from visitors, so they moved downtown about six months ago. Travelers are still stopping at the depot, and when there’s nothing there, Ted eventually gets a call.
The Visitor Center is now on the east side of Mass in the 800 block. There is no parking dedicated to the center, and there is no RV or camper parking in the area the way there was at the Depot.
Ted says it was a bad move to change the Visitor Center to downtown. Though they may be getting more signatures from shoppers in downtown Lawrence, these may not be actual tourists or visitors to the city.
Parks and Recreation is the department that puts up lights, so Ted called city hall when he saw that there were only two bushes and the outline of the Depot decorated after waiting to see if they would put up the customary amount of lights. He said that the whole area looked like a dark hole rather than a festive entrance to the City of Lawrence. Since the zoning is the same as Mass Street downtown, Ted thinks we need to be treated as such. They did put up more lights, but it’s nothing like it was in the previous years when Explore Lawrence was there.
Ted told the commission that he wants the Depot and North 2nd street to be decorated the way downtown is each year, including trees and light poles. Parks and Rec confirmed that they will make sure to decorate the entire Downtown District, all the way to the underpass next year. (They know they will hear from us if they don’t!)
At least 30,000 vehicles per day drive through North Lawrence on North 2nd/3rd. Having a cheerful appearance that mirrors the lights traditionally put up downtown during the holidays will be welcome.
Since the Depot now doesn’t have a tenant and there is space, Ted wants to see more historical information installed that pertains to Jefferson, Kansas (through 1870) and North Lawrence (since 1870), and have the Depot be a permanent installation of the River Kings historical display. Jefferson was here in the 1820s, concomitant with the presence of Delaware tribe. Some of the older buildings still standing are from the 1860s. Ted remembers buildings still standing in the 1960s that were build in 1840 or so. The River Kings were workers that supported business and recreation in Lawrence through the mid-20th century. Currently, part of the River Kings display is in the lobby of the Spring Hill Marriott. Ted would like to see some of the historic material from the Watkins collection also rotate in and out of the Depot on a regular basis.
Were this move to happen, the Depot would become a destination for visitors once more. Currently it is a city-owned building that can be rented for weddings, meetings, etc.
A neighbor talked a little bit about the history of Bismark Grove, where in the 1800s and around the turn of the 20th century, there were picnics, events, races, concerts, etc. The train line used to have a stop at Bismark Grove before it came into the Depot in North Lawrence.
Ted pointed out that as the development behind Johnny’s happens, there will eventually be 500-600 new residents living there, as well as shops and businesses where people will visit and work. We hope there will be a grocery store there as well. Many parts of the Johnny’s building will be saved, as well as the Gaslight building, the building that Sadie’s is in, and the old grain elevator will be preserved.
Ted is on the Downtown Master Plan Advisory Board, and they had their second meeting last week. What the city decides based on what that board and the consultants say will affect how North Lawrence looks and feels over the next 20 years. South of the river they are talking about increasing below-ground parking instead of surface parking in the current surface parking lots. They are exploring building 6-7-story buildings on the current surface lots, with underground parking, retail on the first floor, and offices above. HRC says they cannot demo any historical buildings, but the city can build on currently vacant lots. The plan is 2020-2040, and it will change the look of downtown to look more like the Great Wall of New Hampshire, with the historic buildings interspersed between the new, tall buildings. The limit on height for buildings is currently around 90 feet, but could be up for discussion as infill happens.
We have a new city manager, who comes to us from Clayton, MO, basically a suburb of St. Louis. They have a lot of new buildings like we do on New Hampshire, and there are 35-40k people who commute to Clayton every day to work in that area, and only 20k residents. So, the 2020-40 plan is looking at preserving the historic character of downtown while building upward and increasing density and residency.
A resident complimented the city for doing a good and timely job of snow and ice removal and pre-treating during the latest storm.
Ted said his purpose on this advisory board is that our side of the river gets developed the way we want it to be. Something like the development behind Johnny’s can only be good where it is, because it would not happen in any other area of North Lawrence due to desire to keep the residential appearance.
Ted continues to work on the grocery store project, with the hope that there will be one that wants to join the development behind Johnny’s. They have been working to contact smaller retailers like Brothers Market (Tonganoxie), Harps Foods (De Soto) and Checkers (of course), along with larger retailers (ALDI, Price Chopper) with the information about how many residents are underserved in the area, and how many cars come through that intersection each day. The grocers that are being targeted will get a packet of information as well as a large map of the area. We are hoping for a 35,000K grocery store, which is a little smaller than the Mass St DIllons, and parking will be much better.
Ellen Young came to talk with us about the 31st running of the Shamrock Shuffle on Saturday March 7th at 9am. Last year they changed the course and ran the 10K through NL. Many of the 10K runners loved the route and the neighborhood. This year the 5K will be the first part of the 10K route rather than run on the levee. The run begins at 9, and the 5K should be over by 10. There will be an aid station again at The Bird (mile 1.5). Residents are welcome to sit and watch runners and encourage them on their route or play music. The race will begin at Johnny’s, drop off the Levee at 8th and Oak, 9th to Maple, left at Maple to Locust, to Elm, and then west (opposite of traffic, in a designated lane) on Elm to 3rd, and at 3rd and Elm get back on the Levee around the Levee Cafe and the 5K be mostly over around 10 am. The 10K will continue over the bridge into the Pinckney neighborhood. There are volunteers who will be picking up trash and taking care of the runners. Volunteers will flyer the affected streets with door hangers.
Proceeds from the race will go to Tenants to Homeowners, Positive Bright Starts, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Last year the money went to the Lawrence Children’s Choir and Lawrence Football.
A resident asked how many runners typically run. Ellen said 300-350. A resident asked where the runners will park. Ellen said that they will park at Johnny’s, the Visitor Center, and the parking lot at 2nd and Locust.
They are calling for volunteers. The city wants adult volunteers at all the major intersections. People can show up at Johnny’s to be assigned to their volunteer jobs.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade originally started at The Bird, went across the bridge, and went on various streets to what is now the R bar. Apparently merchants in downtown didn’t want rowdy, drunk, heathen North Lawrence folks parading on Mass Street — until they saw the crowd that the parade draws! Then the parade started at South Park and came up to the Bird, and a few people wanted it to stop at 6th. But because it started at The Bird, and was originally a North Lawrence event, we would not have that.
The Christmas donations totaled around $5000 this last year. Officially, we adopted around 8 families. Each got $500 in gift cards, from DIllons and Wal Mart. Becky Price at the Ballard Center distributed the cards to the families. We had some extra money, so we bought more gift cards to give to additional families in the form of gas cards, etc. Then, we still had some money left over, so Ted asked Becky what they needed. She said diapers! Ted cleaned out the #4 diapers at the local retailers along with baby wipes, etc. He asked Becky what else they needed! It was supplies for women’s monthly needs. Ted asked, you really want ME to go buy this? But he did! NLIA also gave out a number of $50 -100 cards to more people whose names we got from Ballard, individuals and families that might need a little help.
We also had a nice surprise this year from Wes at the Bird. He stopped at the Re-Cyclery and crew down $1000 for bicycles and said Ted will be by to pick them up. Ted got a call the Saturday before Christmas from Wes saying that the bike shop was expecting him. Wes said he’d know what to do with the bikes! Wes bought a variety of bikes from small trikes on up to 5th-6th grader size.Ted called a friend with a truck help him pick them up and take to Ballard. Ted also got a call from a resident about some teddy bears she had that along with some winter hats and gloves. It was a huge bag full of little bears and a huge bag or stocking caps, and gloved for kids!
Ted said that all the businesses up on North 2nd and 3rd are very generous and caring during the holiday season and that everyone misses Beverly. Ted has been doing the collection mostly on his own the past 2 years. Beverly recently retired after 15 years of doing this volunteer job, but she sure has our businesses “well-trained” to help with the project. They are glad that the money stays in North Lawrence and helps North Lawrence families.
Ted talked about the traffic calming devices destined for Lyon Street. They are finally being installed, after a 2-year wait once we were awarded the federal grant money to install them. (These are the grants that we are no longer eligible for because we are no longer a low-to-moderate-income neighborhood). Ted had been asking the city why the humps had not been installed even though we had gotten the money via our grant two years ago, $40,000 to pay for and install them. There is a new traffic engineer who has been taking bids for outside contractors to do the humps, and the latest bids were $9300, rather than the $8000 we bid the grant out for. Because we got a federal grant for ours, ours should not cost the taxpayers that, however!
Ted said that recently there was a church that wanted to donate $10K to the city to put in bus benches and bus shelters. (Ted said he was worried the city would commandeer the money and spend it somewhere else!) The commission would not take that money from the church for that project. They said they didn’t have a policy for how to take gifts from organizations or people for projects.
A resident reminded us that there is a year-round farmers’ market in North Lawrence, on Saturday afternoons from 2-4 at Happy Shirt. There is also a Sunday market that happens at 10am at Slow Ride Roadhouse. This outdoor market will begin again on March 1st — and you can get tacos at Slow Ride when you’re done shopping.
The Cabin Fever Chili Supper will be Monday, February 10th at 5:00pm at the Union Pacific Depot. This will be in lieu of the regular monthly meeting. We have only 13 folks signed up to bring food — so get in touch with Ted or Alison soon to let you know what you’re bringing!
Ted asked for a motion to adjourn and a second. The vote was was unanimous.
The January meeting of NLIA will be postponed to Monday, January 20th (Martin Luther King Day) because of a committee conflict that the President has encountered.
Ted is one of 18 people on the Downtown Master Plan Steering Committee. They will be meeting that night with a consultant from Houseal Lavigne Associates to review the “Existing Conditions Analysis and Vision” that this consulting firm has created.
Please be thinking about what dish you plan to bring to the Cabin Fever Chili Supper on Monday, February 10th, 5:30pm at the Depot. We will be taking names at this next meeting.
Ted can update on the activities of the city committee and how their plans will affect North Lawrence (hint: strongly!) at our delayed meeting.
We will see you at 7pm on Monday, January 20th at Peace Mennonite Church, 615 Lincoln Street.
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.
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.
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.
Tonight’s meeting has been POSTPONED to Monday, November 18th due to extreme temperatures and possible road hazards.
Stay safe and warm, everyone. See you next week.