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Three-lane road a one-way discussion

1/4/2013

By DAWNE LEIKER

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

An issue familiar to residents who live on West 27th Street resurfaced Thursday night as Hays city commissioners discussed city staff recommendations for restriping 27th between Fort and Hall streets.

About a dozen residents attended the work session with seven speaking out against a reconfiguration of the street, which would eliminate on-street parking and restripe 27th Street to a three-lane configuration.

For many of the residents addressing commissioners Thursday night, that loss of parking was a critical issue. Megan Skeen, who bought a home on West 27th only six months ago, was one homeowner who spoke out against the change.

"I can tell you that I absolutely would not have bought it if it was a three-lane road," she said. "I wouldn't have parking. That's important."

She said a contractor estimated the addition of concrete on her property to accommodate additional parking would cost approximately $15,000.

"My property value is going to go down, and you're going to cause me to have to install another $15,000 driveway," she said. "This just doesn't work."

Commissioners during an October work session had asked city staff to revisit the striping issue which had been recommended by a 2004 citywide traffic study and considered by city commissioners in 2008.

City Manager Toby Dougherty told commissioners Thursday night 50 accidents had occurred in the area since 2007, 40 percent of which likely could have been eliminated if the area was reconfigured into a three-lane street.

"So you asked for our input, and our input is consistent with the last traffic study which was done," Dougherty said. "We think it should be striped consistent throughout there in a three-lane format."

Although he prefaced his comments by saying other commissioners "may wince at what I'm about to say," Commissioner Kent Steward said he would consider the idea of the city assisting homeowners adversely affected by the reconfiguration, should the city move forward with the process.

"I would be open to ... take a look at it if there would be something we could do to help in some of the extreme instances," Steward said.

A comment from resident Gary Simon raised the ire of commissioners.

"I'm tempted to say, 'Well, here we go again,' " Simon said. "Because just a few years ago, we had this same pow-wow.

"We had these same neighbors come and say the same things and the comment from the commission was 'Well, it's always going to be about the parking, so until we can get the right kind of people living there so we can do what we want to anyway.' It feels like that's the goal that wants to be accomplished by the commission irregardless of the ideals of the people that live along the street."

Mayor Troy Hickman told Simon that was an unfair assessment of the commission's consideration of the change, and Commissioner Ron Mellick added the area had received numerous complaints from other residents.

Steward pointed out to Simon and other residents a firm had been commissioned to do the study and commissioners were not being arbitrary in their discussion of the street's reconfiguration. Although he said he did not agree with all the recommendations of the study, Steward said the study was worth consideration.

"I'm telling you it wasn't just out of the blue," he said. "It wasn't only because we did hear from some people.

"We spend your money occasionally to try to get experts to take a look at things. ... We did have some basis."

Further discussions of the topic will follow at the commission's Jan. 17 work session to give other residents the opportunity to comment on the reconfiguration.

In other business, commissioners:

* Discussed possible signalization of 27th and Indian Trail. City staff recommended traffic levels did not warrant addition of a signal. Commissioners agreed to accept advisement of staff and take no action on the matter.

* Discussed term limits on city boards and the possibility of disbanding some boards. Commissioners asked representatives of several boards attend an upcoming work session to discuss the necessity of their committees. In addition, Mellick asked city commission term limits be discussed at an upcoming work session.

* Agreed Steward be chosen as a representative to the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development board. Commissioners will vote on the measure at next Thursday's regular meeting.