Residents of the Kenilworth neighborhood in Prairie Village are on the defensive after a controversial plan to run at least part of the traffic from the proposed Meadowbrook development through their streets is back on the table.
Several dozen members of the neighborhood met with city and Johnson County officials Tuesday at the Meadowbrook Clubhouse to get an update on the project bordered by Nall and Roe avenues and 91st and 95th streets.
Members of the Prairie Village City Council are scheduled to vote Monday on rezoning 45 acres of the property to allow VanTrust Real Estate to build a senior living center and a mix of single-family lots, luxury apartments, twin-home units and a 50-room boutique hotel. The city is also planning to purchase the remaining 83 acres of the former Meadowbrook golf course for a public park.
VanTrust originally planned to build a road across the property from the intersection of Nall Avenue and 92nd Terrace to the intersection of Roe Avenue and 91st Street. The developers changed their mind after a series of meetings with the neighbors and agreed not to connect Roe Avenue to the rest of the development, replacing the access point with a small parking lot and an access road for emergency vehicles only.
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City planning commissioners voted on Nov. 12 to recommend approving that plan, which still included the Nall Avenue entrance and an entrance at Rosewood Drive and 94th Terrace to the south.
But Tuesday, City Administrator Quinn Bennion said that other stakeholders who control whether the project gets completed have weighed in against eliminating the Roe Avenue access point.
He said the Johnson County Park and Recreation District’s board, which will actually develop and operate the park at Meadowbrook, last month asked staff to add the Roe Avenue access point back to the park’s proposed master plan, which is also up for a vote by the City Council Monday.
Jill Geller, the district’s executive director, said the board wanted to make sure residents to the north and east of the property can reach the park without having to go around to Nall Avenue or Rosewood Drive.
“To provide it as a true regional county park,” Geller said, “it is our belief and the opinion of our board that there needs to be ease of access to all residents of Johnson County, and that’s why the road connection is very important to us.”
Geller acknowledged that the board didn’t take a formal vote but “expressed a strong consensus” that the road be added back.
Bennion said he had also heard from Johnson County Manager Hannes Zacharias that the County Commission was also interested in keeping the Roe Avenue access point. Bennion noted that the commission, while not a party to approving the development plans, would have to sign off on connecting the development to wastewater and sewer.
Finally, he said the owners of 20/20 LLC, a company that owns the property being used for the Rosewood Drive access point, sent the city a letter stating they would not sell unless either the Roe Avenue access point was restored or city officials installed a traffic light at the Nall Avenue access point.
Overland Park officials, who oversee the west side of Nall Avenue, have refused to approve a traffic signal at the proposed intersection, saying traffic studies don’t indicate a need.
Prairie Village Mayor Laura Wassmer, who lives on Roe Avenue, said she would have preferred for the stakeholders to support the plan without a Roe Avenue connection. But barring that, Wassmer said she was ready to compromise.
“If we can’t decide that extra traffic is worth having a park, and if the other stakeholders draw a line in the sand and say we’re not moving forward unless there’s a road to Roe, our alternative is we don’t get a park and we get this (property) all filled with single family homes and believe me there will be an access to Roe,” she said.
But residents spent much of the two-hour meeting disagreeing, arguing a Roe Avenue entrance at 91st Street would be a mistake and put their neighborhood at risk.
“I’m very nervous about how the traffic on Roe is going to affect me,” said Jenifer Ashford, noting that many area parks have only one entrance and are considered safe.
Ruthanne Dunn said she lives at the intersection of Roe Avenue and 91st Street and predicted a large number of the people living in the Meadowbrook development would use the Roe Avenue entrance, making congestion unbearable.
“How are our property values going to go up sandwiched between two roads?” Dunn asked.
Several residents suggested that if city officials do believe a Roe Avenue connector is necessary they should require VanTrust to build it on land the company owns farther north on Roe Avenue, which they said would avoid forcing the neighborhood to sell its own land at the 91st Street intersection and discourage cut-through traffic by preventing the connector from lining up with 91st Street.
Marita Favreau, who lives on nearby Fontana Street, added that encouraging pedestrians to cross Roe Avenue farther north is not as risky as trying to cross at 91st Street.
“It’s not safe because of the curve,” Favreau said. “All of us who have lived there and walked there know this. That is not the safe place to be.”
Other residents questioned how real the threats Bennion relayed from the park and county officials to hold up the project truly were, noting that neither board has made a formal vote.
“I appreciate the city and I appreciate VanTrust, but I don’t like bullies,” said Leon Patton. “I don’t like government that is not transparent.”
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