Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods (LAN) Meeting Minutes – January 5, 2017
LAN met at 7:00 p.m., January 5, 2017, in Meeting Room C of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont Street with Chair Candice Davis initially presiding.
The following attendees were present: Becky Pepper, City of Lawrence Planning and Development Services; Bonnie Uffman, Barker Neighborhood resident; Candice Davis, Oread Residents Association; Charlie Bryan, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department / Monterey Neighborhood; Cindy Suenram, East Lawrence Neighborhood Association; Courtney Shipley, Dad Perry Park/Kasold; Jane Gibson, Barker Neighborhood Association; Jim Carpenter, Planning Commission Member; Kathy Heppert, Sunset Hill Neighborhood Association; Kirk McClure, Old West Lawrence Association; Lisa Larsen, Lawrence City Commission; Mark Thiel, City of Lawrence Public Works; Melinda Henderson, Brook Creek Neighborhood Association; Phil Collison, East Lawrence Neighborhood Association; Robert Lewis, West Hills Homes Association.
Chair announcements. LAN Facebook posts will be managed by Candice, Melinda and Courtney. Possible future speakers include Eileen Horn, city/county sustainability coordinator, to present about the STAR (Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating) Community Rating, and Tamara Cash to present about Community Village Lawrence.
November minutes. It was moved by Kirk McClure, seconded by Candice Davis, to approve the November 2016 minutes. Motion carried unanimously.
December notes. Noting the absence of a quorum for the December 2016 meeting, a summary of the meeting was distributed for review. No motions or voting occurred during the meeting.
Treasurer’s report. Cindy Suenram reported $2,152.74 is in the LAN bank account through 12/31/2016. Payment of 2017 membership dues began this month. Dues are $25.00 for organizations and $5 for individuals. Dues can be sent to 1204 New York St., Lawrence, Kansas 66044.
Update from City Planning and Development Services. Becky Pepper reviewed the January 5, 2017 Neighborhood Update for LAN, available at https://lawrenceks.org/pds/neighborhood_information/. On December 6, the City Commission approved the Oread Design Guidelines, which will take effect in February. Also on December 6, the City Commission approved initiating rezoning the area north of 9th Street in the East Lawrence Neighborhood (from RM24 to an RS district). The rezoning item will receive a hearing before the Planning Commission with notice to all affected properties and to owners within 400 feet of the affected properties.
Elections. Candice introduced the slate of candidates identified by the nominations committee. Courtney Shipley agreed to co-chair with Candice Davis. Kirk McClure agreed to serve as vice-chair. Cindy Suenram agreed to serve as Treasurer. Charlie Bryan agreed to serve as Secretary. Jane Gibson asked the candidates to describe their individual visions for LAN. It was moved by Jane Gibson, seconded by Robert Lewis, to approve the slate of candidates. Motion carried unanimously.
Guest speaker. Mark Thiel, City of Lawrence Public Works, presented on the City’s effort to develop a sidewalk hazard repair program. A summary of the presentation and subsequent discussion follows.
In October 2016, the City Commission directed the City Manager to develop a sidewalk hazard repair program based on recommendations from the Pedestrian-Bicycle Issues Task Force, which reported sidewalk repair needs of $6.2 million. The City has developed an internal team of City staff and a group of external stakeholders to assist with development of the program. The City plans to inspect all public sidewalks on an 8-year cycle (1/8th per year). Sidewalk panels out of compliance with city code would be marked with paint, and adjacent property owners would receive notice from the City in the mail with an explanation of the markings and options to complete and pay for the sidewalk repairs.
The City recognizes the potential for financial hardship created by a proactive sidewalk repair program and is developing options to assist property owners. These options will be presented to the City Commission for consideration. Some options might include hiring a private sidewalk contractor to do the repairs or using a city-hired contractor to repair the sidewalk. If a city-hired contractor performed the work, the property owner would have the option to be billed or assessed the costs over time with property taxes. The City is also evaluating options that could allow for the deferral of the assessment until such time as the ownership changes and the property would sell to recover the costs.
Additionally, during the 8-year sidewalk hazard repair program, the City would repair sidewalk ramps and sidewalks that need repairs due to city infrastructure. Upon completion of the 8-year program, the City expects to integrate sidewalk inspections into its annual street inspection program, which occurs on a 4-year cycle (1/4th of city streets and sidewalks to be inspected annually). The proposed sidewalk hazard repair program is expected to be considered by the City Commission in March.
In response to questions about the rationale for assigning financial costs to property owners, Thiel offered the following explanations: 1) City manager Tom Markus believes the City will assume liability for sidewalks if the City assumes responsibility for maintenance and repair, 2) the approach identifies a funding source, and 3) Kansas law makes it the property owner’s responsibility.
LAN Response. For reasons presented below, it was moved by Candice Davis, seconded by Jane Gibson, to send a letter to the City Commission stating that LAN does not support the plan to charge property owners for sidewalk repairs and that we would like to see exploration of ways the city can pay for sidewalk repair and maintenance. LAN believes the city should develop a fair and equitable system of responsibility for sidewalk repair and maintenance. The motion carried unanimously.
Liability: The Public Health Law Center says liability is not that clear. On streets, for example, once the city knows about potholes, they become liable. If they don’t know, liability becomes a gray area. Further, the city is better equipped to manage the liability than individual property owners. The way to minimize liability is to keep sidewalks in good repair, not dodge the issue either through the historical practice of benign neglect and complaint-driven enforcement, nor by assigning liability to individual property owners.
Financing: Tom Markus directed Mark Thiel to develop a plan that assigns responsibility to adjacent property owners. It appears that the only alternatives to consider are ways for property owners to pay for the work. This could be through liens against property that would repay the lien holder at the time of sale, payment plans, and so on. LAN believes alternative funding methods that assign responsibility to the City should be explored.
A source of partial funding could come from the sales tax citizens passed in 2008. The sales tax generates revenues that are earmarked for infrastructure that includes sidewalks. To date, this money has been used for street repairs and ADA compliant curb cuts, but none has been used for sidewalk repair and maintenance. It should be. The infrastructure sales tax expires in 2019. Citizens will likely have an opportunity to vote on renewal of this sales tax in 2017 or 2018.
The Supreme Court is currently reviewing a case in Mission Kansas in which the city charged a transportation utility fee to pay for road repairs. The District Court upheld this funding method; the Court of Appeals overturned it. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the use of this fee. See Kansas City Star article here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article26116954.html
Law: Kansas law allows cities to opt out (declaring home rule) and to create their own systems for sidewalk repair and maintenance.
Equity: The worst sidewalks are in the older neighborhoods where residents are least able to pay for their repair.
Fairness: Sidewalks are used by everyone though only those with properties adjacent to them will be required to pay for their upkeep.
The October 18, 2016 presentation and discussion by the City Commission and the public can be seen here: https://assets.lawrenceks.org/assets/agendas/cc/2016/10-18-16/10-18-16_cc_agenda.html. The presentation by City Engineer David Cronin begins at 14:59. City Commission questions and public comment begin at 29:18.
To express your opinion, citizens should address the City Commission about this issue. Watch for meeting agendas to know when to the Commission will consider the proposal.
Voter Education Coalition (VEC) update from Melinda Henderson. Municipal elections will be held this year, based on new statutes. Elections include school board and city commission. If needed, a primary election would be held in August. The general election is in November. School board is also talking about a bond issue, as previous bonds are being retired. The bond issue would be determined by a mail-in ballot, likely to be received in April. Douglas County is also looking at referendum on jail expansion.
The meeting adjourned at 8:55 p.m.