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Prairie Village City Council votes to expand bike lanes, trails and sidewalks

Prairie Village City Council voted to put in more bike lanes, like this one in Overland Park.
Prairie Village City Council voted to put in more bike lanes, like this one in Overland Park. File photo

Prairie Village City Council members on Monday approved a master plan that would significantly expand the number of bike lanes, trails and sidewalks in the city.

The 7-5 vote came after some residents criticized the proposal and several council members argued it still contained too many unanswered questions.

Under the plan, the city would add 1.6 miles of new sidewalks, primarily along Nall Avenue between 79th Street and 83rd Street, along State Line Road between 71st Street and 76th Street, along Cherokee Drive between 75th Street and Belinder Avenue, and along 77th Street between Nall Avenue and Rosewood Drive.

The plan also would add four miles of dedicated bike lanes — primarily on Nall Avenue between 67th Street and 95th Street, and on Mission Road between 63rd Street and 68th Terrace — as well as 36 miles of shared bike lanes, primarily streets with lower traffic where pavement markings and signs remind drivers to share the road with bicyclists.

The city would also build two miles of off-road shared-use trails that could be used by bikes or walkers and would connect to several existing trail networks. City planners are considering two possible routes for a shared-use trail connecting the corner of 69th Street and Roe Avenue with an existing shared-use path on Tomahawk Road. One would follow 69th Street and Oxford Road while the other would follow Roe Avenue and 71st Street.

The estimated price tag for the bike lanes is $500,000 while the sidewalks and trails would cost up to $1.5 million.

The proposed sidewalk and bike lane on Nall Avenue attracted the most attention as several residents along the road told the council they already had a sidewalk on the west side of the road and did not want another on the east side. They said adding the sidewalk would likely require eliminating a strip of green space and affecting stone walls along the right-of-way.

“We are replacing cement where we had grass and trees and shrubs,” said Kathy McIntyre. “I don’t see that that’s a benefit to Prairie Village.”

Bob Numrich said he questioned whether a bike lane was necessary.

“I haven’t seen any statistics on what type of bikers we’re trying to attract on Nall,” Numrich said. “I have driven up and down Nall Avenue on a bicycle for 35 years and very rarely do I see other bicyclists during any time of day when anyone is threatened.”

Keith Bredehoeft, public works director, said his department — and the consultants who developed the plan following a number of public meetings — was following city policy, which requires sidewalks on both sides of major streets like Nall.

Councilman Ron Nelson said he considered the master plan “conceptual” and wouldn’t bind the council’s hands in the future if they decided they didn’t want to build certain sidewalks or bike paths.

“This is not an implementation of the plan,” Nelson said. “It is not indicating that any of these items will be made or constructed or designed or that anyone will get noticed about anything being done because that’s not what this plan does.”

But Councilwoman Jori Nelson said she worried that having those projects set out in the master plan would make it harder to argue against them in the future.

“When we approve a plan we stick to a plan, and I don’t think this plan is ready,” she said.

In other business, the council voted 10-2 to move forward on an update of the city’s comprehensive plan, a collection of strategy documents and policies used by city planners to direct, and approve future development within the city.

The current comprehensive plan, also called Village Vision, was adopted in 2007. Chris Brewster, a consultant with design firm Gould Evans, said the city needs to update the plan to inventory the city’s changing development patterns, develop new principles for developing neighborhoods and identify opportunities for redevelopment. The project would take almost a year and cost between $47,500 and $80,000.

The council will take a final vote on beginning the update at its May 21 meeting.

Council members also reviewed initial designs for a park planned on the former site of the Faith Lutheran Church at 67th Street and Roe Avenue. Currently being called “North Park,” the almost 3-acre site would include a playground, an open grassy area, space for a community garden, a bocce court, a 37-space parking lot, two medium-sized picnic shelters and a restroom facility. The city also plans to include a monument marking the history of Faith Lutheran.

Scott Bingham with BBN Architects said the designs incorporated public input. In response to council questions, he said he believed the project could be completed within the current $1 million budget.

The council also honored Sonia Warshawski, a 55-year resident and Holocaust survivor, with the Mayor’s Award of Perseverance. Warshawski’s life was the subject of a recent documentary, “Big Sonia,” which described both her survival of German concentration camps during World War II as well as her continued work visiting schools and prisons to share her story.

“I wish and hope the almighty will extend my years to be able to heal the world,” Warshawski told the council. “When I came out from this hell, I promised myself when I made it that my responsibility is to speak for those who didn’t make it.”

In other Prairie Village news:

Prairie Village City Councilwoman Serena Schermoly said Thursday that she is running for mayor.

Schermoly will join former Councilman Eric Mikkelson in the race to replace Mayor Laura Wassmer, who announced last month that she is not running for reelection this fall.

Elected in 2016 to represent Ward 2, Schermoly said running for mayor was her ultimate goal when running for the council.

She said she would look to support the arts, city parks and boost public participation. Early in her tenure, she spearheaded efforts to broadcast council meetings on the Internet, at one point making meeting footage publicly available on her Facebook page and YouTube feed.

“It’s building good relationships with staff and the council and continuing the leadership we have now,” she said.

David Twiddy: