Want to fight City Hall? Good luck.
By YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH
The Kansas City Star
Youll need lots of free time to endure long public meetings, patience to deal with bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, and money to hire legal experts, consultants and to print yard signs touting your cause.
Yet all over the Kansas City area, residents take on these challenges because they love their homes, neighborhoods and cities.
Sometimes they win, but they commonly lose, too. Developers armed with revenue-producing projects have plenty of sway with city officials. Plus, city leaders often care more about what their town will look like in 20 years than what current residents think.
Here are two projects in the spotlight now.
• In Raytown, insurance agent Sue Frank knows how tough it can be to battle City Hall. After all, Frank used to be City Hall.
Specifically, she was a progressive mayor there, working to bring in economic development and spruce up the rather mundane downtown area where she works.
But now Frank and others are battling to keep Wal-Mart from building a neighborhood grocery on a large, a city-owned green space at 62nd Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard.
Opponents make an excellent point: The Wal-Mart store would severely damage plans to create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown Raytown, the kind that Lees Summit, Overland Park and other cities have built over the years, featuring small shops of all kinds.
Of the green space, Frank points out, Its the heart, plum and jewel of what could be a nice little part of our downtown.
Wal-Mart supporters say the green space has been empty for several years, the organic kind of growth Frank and others wish for has not yet occurred, and the grocery is not seeking taxpayer incentives. So it could produce new revenue for the city, school district and local library across the street.
While all of that is accurate, it omits a key point: City leaders are making a decision that will determine what downtown looks like for decades. The green space used for community events is a public asset. It could still serve that function for a few more years if Wal-Mart is denied and the city seeks smaller projects there.
A citizens commission rejected Wal-Marts plan, but the Board of Aldermen will decide the projects fate later this month. The vote is expected to be close.
• In Prairie Village, many homeowners in the Mission Valley Neighbors Association oppose the construction of Mission Chateau, a senior living facility proposed at 85th Street and Mission Road. Thats the site of the former Mission Valley Middle School.
They say that the plan calls for too large a development near a residential area, and that Prairie Village already has or is close to plenty of other senior citizen communities.
Essentially, this project would be another move toward graying up Prairie Village rather than greening it up with more single-family houses on the site. Or, some neighbors hope, a Christian school could move there, which would encourage families to stay in or move to Prairie Village.
We are not anti-development, says resident Brian Doerr.
But the developer, The Tutera Group, says it has scaled the project back, that it would include new walking paths and park space, and it would create about 150 jobs.
Resident Jim Chaar likes that the senior center would create extra tax revenue for Prairie Village, adding, Thats the type of project we need to have in our city.
The City Council isnt scheduled to make its decision until later this summer.
But its going to be tough to reject a project that brings in jobs and residents, even if neighbors dont like it. They have a tough road ahead of them fighting City Hall.
To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He appears on Ruckus at 7:30 tonight on KCPT. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.