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Could cul-de-sacs reach a dead end in Overland Park?

Cul-de-sacs like this one near 103rd and Ballentine in Overland Park, could become more expensive to build if they must be concrete rather than asphalt.
Cul-de-sacs like this one near 103rd and Ballentine in Overland Park, could become more expensive to build if they must be concrete rather than asphalt. Special to The Star

Could cul-de-sacs — the ultimate symbol of suburban life — eventually become obsolete in Overland Park? The Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City thinks so and has sounded the alarm in a public relations push-back against an idea being considered to change the city’s paving requirements.

The builders’ group made the dire prediction recently that new home development in the city could dry up if new rules are adopted that require cul-de-sacs be paved in concrete rather than the less-expensive asphalt. It’s an idea the city has floated as a way to save on street repairs.

So far, it’s just an idea being discussed between city officials and developers. But the industry group escalated things this month with a press release saying the change would make the popular street stubs so unaffordable that developers might eliminate them altogether in Overland Park.

“The rule would very likely leave residential developers no choice but to remove cul-de-sacs from future development plans or even lead them to develop new communities in neighboring cities where there is no such mandate, a decision that would reduce Overland Park’s competitiveness and lessen its attractiveness with future homeowners,” the release said.

City officials say they have no intention of eliminating cul-de-sacs, but want to explore ways to save on long-term street maintenance.

“I believe they are overstating, but that being said we are only in the research stage at this point,” wrote Councilman Fred Spears, in an emailed response to the release. Spears is also chairman of the council’s public works committee where the proposal will be discussed. The committee will take up the issue at its June 28 meeting. The full city council would have to OK it before the change could take effect.

The cost of new cul-de-sacs has become an issue because developers and the city are responsible for different stages of a street’s life. Developers typically pay to create the streets, but turn long-term maintenance over to the city after the neighborhood is built.

The city has been talking with developers for about a year about the possibility of requiring concrete on the rounded bulb of the cul-de-sacs. All told, the city spends more per square yard maintaining cul-de-sacs than it does on straight streets, said City Engineer Burt Morey.

That’s because the compaction isn’t as good when the street is first built, he said, adding that it’s harder to get the asphalt well compacted on a curved street than on a straightaway. Also, repeated trips around the curves by traffic and trash haulers push ruts and bumps into the asphalt’s surface.

Asphalt also wears faster, he said. The typical asphalt street will need a new chip/seal surface in about seven years. By comparison concrete streets need very little maintenance aside from occasional joint sealing. Asphalt streets usually last at least 30 years before the need to be rebuilt, while concrete streets can be expected to last 50 to 75 years, Morey said.

But developers and builders say putting in concrete would drive up the price of cul-de-sac lots, which are already at a premium because of their popularity. Harold Phelps, president of the Home Builders Association, said concrete adds expense to both the materials and labor and it extends the construction time because of the curing process.

Substituting concrete for asphalt would add about $40,000 to the typical cul-de-sac, he said. “So with eight or 10 in a subdivision, you’re getting close to $400,000 additional cost.”

Yet the street design remains very popular among buyers, who enjoy the security and sense of community, he said.

The association put out the release because the issue has flown under the radar of most people in Overland Park, he said. “Developers who work in Overland Park are very concerned.”

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