by David Tanner The Examiner
Story last updated at 11:43 a.m. Friday, June 20, 2003
Part Two in a Series
Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles on the proposed Arcadia project in eastern Independence. Today's focus is on traffic concerns in and around the project.
Many residents in the Little Blue Valley say their roads are dangerous now without much traffic. But with development on the way, they are especially concerned about an additional 8,600 vehicle trips per day on some roads.
Arcadia Land Company is proposing nearly 900 homes in the new Crenshaw and Village One development is in the area of Independence south of Truman Road, east of Crenshaw Road, north of Strode Road and west of Missouri 7.
While the developer promises $3 million in road improvements, some of the residents are questioning if it's enough to handle all of the new traffic.
"That is an unbelievable increase," said neighbor Stacey Hamann, citing a recent traffic study paid for by the developer. "Especially considering the roads that will be expected to handle this amount of traffic."
Community Development Department Director Bruce Hahl says the developer's $3 million is enough to make the necessary roads safe, particularly parts of Crenshaw Road and Strode Road.
He said improvements include widening, adding guardrails, and improving line-of-sight on dangerous curves and hills by physically altering the layout of the roads in certain areas.
The traffic study highlighted nearly 50 areas that need to be addressed in either a short-term or long-term basis.
"This stuff is not going to get done without Arcadia," Hahl said. "For off-site improvements you have to show a direct nexus or responsibility on the part of a developer."
Road money is promised not only for where the project meets a current street which is required by ordinance but off site as well, something Hahl likes.
"That kind of thing hasn't been done before in Independence," he said.
Hahl said the city will ante up funds to purchase rights of way in key line-of-sight areas.
He estimates the cost at $80,000, paid out of the license surcharge fund. The surcharge is best described as an extra charge built in to the building permit process. The city receives a $1,000 surcharge for each single-family house. The money goes into a fund for street improvements affected by the home or development.
Hahl said Arcadia intends to place another fee on the property, likely in the form of a transportation development district, to recoup its $3 million.
"We've never had a (transportation development district) in a residential development like this," Hahl said. Independence has one such district, in the business section of 39th Street. Businesses there help fund street improvements in their area.
Some neighbors don't know if the district idea will fly in a residential setting.
Sandra Colyer, whose husband, Thomas Noffsinger, chairs a protest group called the Little Blue Valley Neighborhood Oversight Group, said in a letter to the City Council the transportation district may not cover all of the bases.
"If the TDD is not possible, how will the road improvements be made?" she said. "Either the improvements will have to be deferred or a massive reallocation of resources from the rest of the city will be necessary. In either case, the city pays for everything."
Neighbors worry that a transportation district may put special assessments and higher taxes on their own homes, but Hahl says that would not be the case.
He said the transportation district would incorporate only the development property and no other homes will be assessed into the district.
Area resident Larry Stoner doesn't think a residential transportation development district will fly.
"It seems the city is the one taking the risk for the developer in the developer's scenario," Stoner said.
As the Little Blue Valley gets developed, Hahl said, the city will expect future developers to continue with road improvements.
The city has also earmarked funds from the streets sales tax program for the intersection of Eureka Road and Crenshaw Road near the Crenshaw village, an improvement that Hahl says would have been done with or without the proposal.
William H. Tucker is the managing director of the Arcadia Land Company, which has building credits in Florida, New Mexico, Idaho and its home state Pennsylvania.
"The key thing is (the roads) are inadequate before we even go in there," Tucker said, "Inadequate because of safety reasons. Not necessarily traffic. Are these roads up to city standard? No."
Arcadia hired George Butler to conduct the area traffic study.
"The traffic study came up with 60 different areas, different pieces to meet the minimum safety standard," Tucker said, "The city has agreed to it. We'll fund $3 million of those improvements, in two pieces. The really bad situations, we will improve as we start to develop these projects."
Hahl said some of the roads will have to be done before any home-occupancy permits are issued. Both Crenshaw and Village One are up for City Council approval next month.
Neighbor John Royle drives the roads daily. He is afraid some of the key improvements will not be done in time nor be adequate for traffic counts and fast drivers.
"We don't have shoulders," Royle said, "The first inch you're off the pavement and you're down the hill."
Royle said the main annexation of thousands of acres in the Little Blue Valley brought the area roads into city jurisdiction in 1975, "And they have done nothing to these roads except add asphalt on top of asphalt."
Royle says the city is in for a fight as it prepares to acquire right-of-way.
"Every piece of property will go to court," he said, "It will have to be condemned."
Next, The Examiner will study the long-term plans for development in the Little Blue Valley, including the role of the Community of Christ, which owns 3,300 acres in the valley.
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