Prairie Village took another step closer toward a policy that will allow homeowners on some residential side streets to opt out of new sidewalks.
The city council’s committee of the whole voted 7-5 Monday night to approve a change in its sidewalk policy and send it on to the Sept. 4 council meeting for further discussion. Under the proposed change, property owners on the lesser-traveled streets would be sent a notice and a petition in which they can approve or disapprove of a new sidewalk. If at least 75 percent of the owners vote no, the sidewalk would not be added to a street improvement project. Homeowners would have a 30-day deadline to respond.
The issue arose as the city is preparing to make street improvements in several areas. The current sidewalk policy requires sidewalks on both sides of major streets and on one side of lesser-traveled residential streets to be added when the streets come up for major repair.
But after residents objecting to new sidewalks along their streets packed into the Aug. 6 meeting, council members decided to review the policy and see if they could come up with a better way for homeowners to have their say.
Some council members at Monday’s meeting expressed reservations about the latest plan. Councilman David Belz said the plan would limit feedback to people who live on the streets in question. People who don’t live on the street but might walk through the area are not included in the petition.
“Can you imagine if people who lived on a road got to decide if the road got paved?” he asked.
Councilwoman Ruth Hopkins said she had heard from the “silent majority” since the last meeting who want sidewalks. “A lot of people were horrified that we were not building sidewalks,” she said.
Councilman Mike Kelly said the absence of sidewalks could make it difficult for police to enforce laws banning skateboards, rollerblades or scooters from the streets.
Councilwoman Laura Wassmer supported the plan because it allows residents a way to protest and possibly avoid new sidewalks. “We don’t need them on every street,” she said. “It’s overkill.” That remark drew a smattering of applause from a few of the roughly 35 who attended the meeting. There was no public comment period.
The city already canceled sidewalk plans for Reeds and Outlook streets at the previous meeting. The city will begin the petition notification process on the other streets that are next on the street improvement schedule. The proposed rule would not affect larger thoroughfares.
The committee of the whole also gave its OK to an ordinance that would require people planning neighborhood events like haunted houses and Christmas displays to get a permit from the city first.
The proposal would ask the event planner to estimate crowd size and provide information on parking and impact on the neighborhood. Two popular Christmas displays — Candy Cane Lane and the Babick display on Falmouth Street — could be affected if the ordinance gets final approval from the council.
The law was written to balance the wishes of people who like the displays with their impact on the neighborhoods and is modeled after special events permits the city requires for such things as parades and fun runs.
Council member Andrew Wang said the proposal would keep neighborhoods safe and was not intended as an impediment to any particular event.
The Babick display, in particular, has caused neighbors to complain about traffic and parking problems.
“We’ve all been on that street at Christmastime and we’ve all seen the traffic,” said Councilman David Belz. “It’s hard to believe that a permit would be allowed under that part of the ordinance.”
Councilman Charles Clark cautioned the members about the proposal. “We have a lot of good ideas, but when the room fills up with people and the TV lights go on it’s a lot more difficult to act,” he said. “Are we going to enforce our own ordinance? If not, we shouldn’t have an ordinance.”
The committee approved it by voice vote, with Belz the only no vote.
The council took a few minutes to address rumors that a dinner theater is in the works for the Prairie Village Shopping Center.
The city has not received any formal notice of such a plan, but rumors are so persistent that Councilman Mike Kelly addressed them publicly. “I want to go on record as hoping they (the developers) would pursue the path that allows the maximum public input,” he said.
Council members Andrew Wang and Ted Odell agreed, saying they hope the neighborhood around the area would be protected and the neighbors heard.
A prostitution sting operation by police earlier this month in Prairie Village, Leawood, Shawnee and Mission was the most successful in the three years that Prairie Village has been doing it, said Capt. Wes Lovett, patrol commander.
The sting netted 52 arrests for prostitution, solicitation, procurement and drugs, Lovett said.
This year was the first year that Prairie Village was joined by other communities in the yearly sting, he said. In the operation, which took place Aug. 7-9, police set up a fake residence in a vacant rental home in the 7600 block of State Line Road and advertised on the Internet. Arrests were made at the home after an offer of money for sex was made.
Police Chief Wes Jordan told the council his biggest surprise was the extent to which people use the Internet for prostitution. The sting is an effective way to deter prostitution from Prairie Village, he said. “We want them to have second thoughts about coming to our city,” he said.
75th Street plans
More and wider sidewalks, narrower lanes and a landscaped area announcing entry into Prairie Village are among preliminary plans being discussed for 75th Street.
The project, which is meant to spruce up the street from Mission Road to State Line Road, includes $238,000 in city funds and a $1.6 million grant from the Mid America Regional Council.
A representative from George Butler Associates presented the council with a look at its designs.
They include: Narrowing the street lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet to make room for wider sidewalks, rearrangement of parking and sidewalks for merchants just west of State Line Road, the addition of a sidewalk on the south side of the street between Canterbury and State Line and better-looking street lights and bus stops.
The gateway sign to Prairie Village would feature two large stone columns, stone walls, trees and landscaping.