Group opposes city land plans
Baldwin City Council members and officials met with an economic development expert Thursday to discuss how to proceed with the proposed business/recreation park southwest of the city on a 160-acres of land the city has taken out an option to buy.
At about the same time, a group of Baldwin City residents was being organized to oppose the planned park. Citing several reasons for the opposition, the group hopes to persuade city leaders to reconsider.
"Of all the calls I received, not one thought this was a good idea," said Ken Hayes, a Baldwin resident who is spearheading the effort. "I was surprised by that. I thought at least one of the city councilmen would call to defend it.
"It is ill conceived from the beginning and the city should look at other options," Hayes said.
City Administrator Larry Paine is open to discussion on the park.
"Obviously this is a community thing and certainly everybody has the right to question the decisions the city council makes," said Paine. "I would be more than happy to listen to what he has to say.
"At the moment, it is a good decision," said Paine. "That could change. He could be right. The reason we have not purchased the property is so I can get on the property, survey the property and evaluate it."
City officials met Thursday with Debi Moore, economic development director for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, to find out what it would take to turn their dreams of a business and recreation park into a reality. Baldwin's industrial park east of the city is full and the ballfield lease with the school district in north Baldwin is running out.
Paine outlined a "patient plan" for the complex during Thursday's meeting. Paine said if the land was bought the city has put down $25,000 for the one-year option for the $590,000 parcel of ground it would be two years before electricity, sewer and water would be available. The land is located south of Orange and east of Lawrence streets just outside the city limits.
City officials envision attracting businesses with fewer than 25 employees, with 5,000-10,000 square foot buildings on three acre lots. Mayor Stan Krysztof said he has had to turn at least five such companies away this year, two of which were manufacturers, because of no space.
One suggestion by Moore was quickly shot down. She suggested establishing a nonprofit marketing corporation which could help new businesses receive property tax exemptions. Councilmen Lee Whaley and Eugene Nelson said they didn't want any part of that and Paine added the plan was to add assessed value, not give tax breaks.
But for the group opposed to the park, any of that talk is useless. They don't want the park in that location and they don't want recreation and business mixed, Hayes said.
"The reasons people gave me for not wanting it ran the gamut, but the fact that it's not on the highway which is where a business park needs to be is the biggest one," he said. "The parents that called were most upset about kids going out there and being in harm's way with the increased traffic, especially truck traffic."
Hayes cited the costs of bringing utilities to the area and upgrading the roads to the proposed park as other major factors. He said about 20 people have already joined him to oppose the park.
"It will take about $2.5 million to get it where we can do something with it," Hayes said. "I'm looking to organize a group to put a halt to this before any more money is wasted before our city's limited resources are used for a park that is not supported by the citizens."