Lawrence Businessman Plants Fruit Trees, Seeking Ag Use Rezoning

Jan 25, 2017

An unusual sight in downtown Lawrence: a small orchard, including this young peach tree on Vermont Street. The trees were planted by Bob Schumm on his plot of vacant commercial land.
Credit Danny Wood/KCUR 89-3

After his application for a commercial development was rejected by the city, former Lawrence mayor Bob Schumm, is trying a different approach: asking the Douglas County authorities to re-zone the plot of land on Vermont Street for agricultural use.

Schumm has planted an orchard on the vacant commercial property in the downtown area after his development proposal for condos and office space was rejected last month. The businessman says he still intends to build condos and offices on the land, but in the meantime, 26 apple, peach, cherry, plum and pear trees cover the space.

“I’m going to let the trees grow," he said. "If the City continues to deny me my applications for approval then I’ve got something to work on.”

The Douglas County Appraiser, Steven Miles, is considering Schumm’s rezoning request. He said it’s a little unusual but a decision would be based on the use of the property. "What we’re looking for typically is an agricultural pursuit that is intended to produce income for the owner," said Miles. "We may ask for production records, sale receipts for the product that’s raised off of it or expense receipts for producing that product.”

The view towards Vermont Street, downtown Lawrence, from Bob Schumm's orchard, planted on his vacant plot of commercial land.
Credit Danny Wood/KCUR 89-3

Schumm says he anticipates selling the fruit at the local farmers' market. If approved, the rezoning would save the Lawrence businessman, and cost the city, many thousands of dollars in taxes. 

Danny Wood is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.