Developers can continue to build asphalt cul-de-sacs in Overland Park — at least for the time being.
After hearing objections from members of a home-building industry group, the members of the Overland Park City Council’s public works committee voted unanimously to put on hold a new regulation that would require new cul-de-sacs to be paved in concrete, rather than the less-expensive asphalt. The action means it will be at least January before the committee will take it up again.
Committee members said they wanted to allow more time for city staff to work with the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City and other interested parties to get facts and look at all the options.
“We need to take a step back and take a look at it a little bit more thoroughly,” said committee chairman Fred Spears.
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The three-hour discussion had some tense moments, though, with some council members unhappy with the association’s tactics they said were misleading and a misrepresentation of what the city is trying to do.
“Let me be perfectly clear,” Spears said. “Our intent is not to eliminate or reduce cul-de-sacs in Overland Park. This issue is only to determine how best to serve our residents to reduce and control future costs and inconvenience.”
The city has been exploring the idea with developers for more than a year as a way of saving money on long-term street repair. Asphalt surfaces on the curved bulb end of cul-de-sacs are more expensive to maintain because repeated trips by heavy trucks such as trash haulers can push the asphalt into an uneven surface, say city officials. The city also gets more complaints from homeowners when the asphalt cul-de-sacs are chip/sealed, they said.
But the home builders group has resisted the idea because it will add significant cost to building the street and that cost is borne by developers. The group has warned that using concrete instead of asphalt could add $4,000 to the cost of every new cul-de-sac home and that extra cost could lead developers to drop the popular street endings in Overland Park.
That figure differed from the city’s projected $1,000 per home, and those differing numbers were one reason the committee decided to delay a recommendation.
Committee member Faris Farassati warned the association to come back with verifiable facts.
“I for sure understand the value of continued conversation,” he said, “but at least if you are taking us to a continued conversation with our staff and taking their time…come with some concrete studies. Don’t come with feelings.”
Farassati was referring to an opinion survey commissioned by the association that rankled several members of the committee.
Joshua Clark, executive vice president of the Home Builders, quoted survey results saying Overland Park residents soundly reject the idea of concrete-paved cul-de-sacs. But some members of the committee said it gave respondents inaccurate information and then pushed their calls through to council members’ phone numbers.
Council member Paul Lyons said the questions on the survey were “loaded” and others said their callers were being fed misinformation by the survey takers. Farassati noted that the fact that the home builders group helped write the questions, which made the survey untrustworthy from a scientific point of view.
Clark maintained the questions were not misleading. “I stand by the survey 100 percent,” he said.
But committee members said they would put aside their anger over the survey tactics and consider other arguments from the builders. Harold Phelps, president of the association, said the city should be especially careful because what Overland Park does is likely to be copied by other cities.
“It’s in our best interest to keep the standards high. But incrementally we have to be careful we kill the golden goose. Twenty-five percent of the cost of a home is regulations,” Phelps said.
City staff has supported using concrete on the cul-de-sac bulbs because the asphalt surface there degrades 40 percent faster than it does on straight streets. In 2015-16, cul-de-sacs accounted for 10 percent of residential street maintenance program but generated about half of customer complaints to the city when they were chip/sealed, said Burt Morey, city engineer.
“We’re not trying to get rid of cul-de-sacs. We know they’re desirable. We’re just trying to get rid of a long-term maintenance issue,” Morey said.