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Restriping 27th concerns homeowners

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

For homeowners on West 27th Street, proposals to restripe their street from two to three lanes has opened a floodgate of concerns. Three primary issues have floated to the top -- parking, safety and decreased property values.

Hays city commissioners' discussion of restriping the second-busiest street in Hays prompted nearly a dozen homeowners to voice their disapproval at the commission's work session two weeks ago. The restriping would affect 27th Street from Plum to Hall streets.

Residents will be given another opportunity to address commissioners about the restriping issue at Thursday's work session at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

A 2004 traffic study, Hays' 2012 comprehensive plan and city staff all recommend the restriping of the street, which averages 11 accidents per year.

Since 2007, 50 accidents have occurred on the stretch of road, 40 percent of which city staff said likely could have been prevented with restriping to three lanes.

"I account for about six of those accidents, people hitting parked cars in front of my house," Dominic Pianalto, who owns a home in the 300 block of West 27th, said during the Jan. 3 work session. "My concern is traffic will come faster if it's a three-lane. The issue is people driving too fast."

Restriping of 27th Street isn't a new issue and has recurred several times since 1990.

Commissioner Eber Phelps, who said the 27th Street issue also came before the commission during his tenure from 1990 to 1996, said as traffic flow and growth of the city have dictated the need, other areas have had on-street parking options removed.

Turning lanes on 27th Street likely are a necessity, he said.

"We've commissioned more than one traffic study for Hays, and the fact is, if we're not going to follow what these folks are telling us, then we better quit commissioning studies," Phelps said.

For Donna Hansen, who moved into her mother's house in the 300 block of 27th in 1990, there have been a few changes through the years.

"The traffic goes faster, and at times, there's more traffic," she said in an interview last week. "You see a lot more trucks now than you used to."

Hansen added parking options to her property through the years, including a circular drive and concrete to accommodate four cars in front of the home. Visitors and family members use on-street parking only when absolutely necessary.

But to Hansen, loss of safety, if the street were to be restriped, is a concern.

"We like to have the parking out there just as a buffer area," she said. "It puts traffic about 6 to 8 feet farther away from our property."

"Most of the accidents they're talking about involve vehicles. You can buy a new vehicle. You can replace it. You can fix it. A person's life you can't."

Fast-moving traffic also is a concern for Pianalto, who said he believes making the street a three-lane would cause increased traffic speeds.

"Our kids that play in our yards and houses are at great danger because the traffic is coming faster," he said. "The issue is not parking on 27th. "The issue is people driving extremely too fast on 27th Street."

Reducing the 30 mph limit in the area in which 85 percent of drivers travel at speeds of 34 mph or slower is not recommended, said Assistant Public Works Director John Braun.

"Setting a lower speed limit would cause a greater safety issue because it would create a great spread of speeds," Braun said. "Thus less safe."

Safety also is a concern of local law enforcement.

"From the police department's standpoint, we have to do what we think is in the best interest of the community as a whole, the overall safety of the community," said Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler. "Looking at that, it appears to me we can reduce accidents by striping that area with three lanes.

"We have an opportunity to reduce accidents on the second busiest road in the city of Hays by 40 (percent) to 60 percent, depending on how you look at it."

Dale Haselhorst, owner/broker of Realty Executives of Hays, brought commissioners his concerns of property values decreasing in the area when he addressed commissioners at the work session. Twenty-five homes would be affected by the loss of parking.

Although many homes along 27th Street from Plum to Hall have circular drives and extra concrete parking areas, several homes in the 300 block have single-car garages and no extra parking other than on-street options.

Loss of parking for many homeowners, Haselhorst said, would result in lower appraisal values.

"The marketability of a house (without on-street parking) is probably cut in half," Haselhorst said last week. "Which means, if it's not marketable, you're not going to get top dollar for it.

"It's going to hurt the values. If you can't park anything on your street, you're in trouble, unless you're a one-car household."

Haselhorst suggested the city compensate homeowners by assisting them in some way to add circular drives on their properties.

"You've got to do something instead of just taking it (parking) away from them," Haselhorst told commissioners Jan. 3. "You've got to give something back."

The amount property values might decline as a result of losing the parking area is unclear. But Ellis County Appraiser Dean Denning said property values likely would be affected.

"In my mind, I don't see how (loss of parking) could possibly not affect it," Denning said. "But how much is really going to be tough.

"Until you see a few sales take place up there after the change has been made, you're not going to be able to measure it all that accurately."

Property values in the 300 and 400 block of 27th Street historically run approximately 8 percent less than properties directly south of the area. Denning said his office had been adjusting for that difference for nearly 15 years.

Other agenda items for Thursday's work session include:

* Request from Ellis County for support of sales tax legislation.

* Bike Hays master plan.

* Transportation Enhancement grant application for hike-and-bike plan.

* Developer agreement for Wheatland lots.

* Engineering agreement for waterline design.

* City commission term limits.