A neighborhood in the Brookside area wants to form a special fee-based district to improve an area east of the Trolley Track Trail, leading at least one streetcar opponent to wonder about ulterior motives.
Dan Coffey, founder of the group Citizens for Responsible Government, said in a recent mass email that some residents fear the plan “is the beginning attempt to move the streetcar project back South to Brookside/Waldo and beyond.”
That brought a strong denial from an official of the Morningside Neighborhood Association, who said the effort was “absolutely not” a stalking horse for a south-side streetcar extension. That proposal was shelved amid vocal opposition from nearby residents.
In its spring newsletter, the Morningside group said it would begin gathering signatures of residents, a majority of which are necessary to create a Community Improvment District and levy a fee of $125 per household.
The CID could be used to pay for various services, including security patrols, yard-waste pickup, beautification and street cleaning, the newsletter said. If approved, the owners of all 579 homes in the district would be required to pay the fee, raising just over $67,000 a year.
The newsletter outlined proposed uses for the money, including neighborhood events, landscaping and signage. The largest single amount, about $33,000, would go for yard-waste pickup. As it stands now, residents must contract with a yard-waste hauler if they want more than the twice-yearly service provided by Kansas City.
Morningside extends from 59th to 65th streets and from Oak Street to the Trolley Track Trail along Brookside Boulevard.
In his email, Coffey noted that an election could be coming soon, probably a “mail in, postcard” affair like the election that established the downtown taxing district that’s part of the financing for Kansas City’s starter streetcar line.
Ryan Loehr, vice president of the Morningside Neighborhood Association, labeled Coffey’s suspicions as “pure fantasy.” The Community Improvement District has been under publicized discussion since January 2011, he noted, and Husch Blackwell is a large law firm with expertise in CIDs.
“The neighborhood association has been really open about what the CID would go toward,” Loehr said. “We want to keep the neighborhood looking neat and clean.”
Loehr did not indicate that an election would be needed to form a CID, but a majority of the households need to sign the petition. For Morningside, that means 265 out of 529 households. If two people — a husband and wife, for example — are on the title to a property, both signatures are required for the household to count. And all signatures must be notarized.
The Morningside association will have at least one public meeting about the CID, probably in August or September, Loehr said. In addition to a door-to-door effort, the neighborhood group is considering public events during which people can sign up.
“It’s a pretty daunting task, but we’re confident it’s something the neighborhood can accomplish,” Loehr said.
Coffey is not the only activist, though, who fears a potential southward expansion of the streetcar taxing district.
Attorney Sherry DeJanes, who led the unsuccessful legal fight against the proposed Transportation Development District to be voted upon Aug. 5, said she is still concerned.
“I fully believe there are more grandiose plans,” DeJanes said. “That’s why we are moving so diligently to defeat the current proposal on Aug. 5.”
She said opponents have received commitments of at least $30,000 to spend on advertising and social-media efforts that will begin in late June orearly July.
Kansas City’s starter streetcar line, running from the City Market to Crown Center, won’t be finished until late next year. Meanwhile, planning has continued for potential extensions.
At public meetings this year, vocal opposition surfaced from some Brookside and Waldo residents who feared, among other things, that a streetcar extension along its former path would negatively affect the Trolley Track Trail, which is heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists.
So on March 25 an advisory committee recommended that a proposed streetcar-taxing district not include those neighborhoods. Instead, the City Council subsequently approved a plan to extend the starter line eastward along Independence Avenue and Linwood Boulevard and south along Main Street, stopping at 51st Street.
A judge ruled May 15 that the plan could proceed to the Aug. 5 ballot.