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City wants more
attractive parkways
Parks department wants KC development
standards tightened

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

To ensure that tracts of land adjacent to parks, boulevards, and parkways complement Kansas City's park properties, several proposals are being considered by the City of Kansas City.

In large part, these new standards are being considered after the city experienced several development snags.

“In the last year, a couple of redevelopment issues came up,” said Denise Phillips, contract administrator with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department.

“It became obvious that what the parks department was intending and what got approved either through zoning regulations or through the planning departments were not the same, and the neighborhoods in each instance were very much upset that the park's standards were not being followed.”

Acting in conjunction with Kansas City Parks and Recreation, the Planning and Development Department of Kansas City is proposing several revisions to the Zoning and Development Code to ensure that future development in close proximity to parks and parkways will be suitable and the codes enforceable.

One of those revisions would prohibit certain commercial developments from being constructed adjacent to park property. Phillips said generally the code pertains to any tract of land within 150 feet of a parkway in Kansas City in Platte County.

Pawn shops, detention facilities, warehouses, adult businesses, and salvage yards are among the businesses and institutions the city may prohibit.

“The proposed prohibited land uses, by and large, are not currently next to a park, but we don't want, for example, a land next to a rural park in Platte County to become a junk yard. We are trying to maintain the quality of the system,” said Phillips.

Another revision on the table would allow the city to obtain less right-of-way for parkways. Currently, the requirement for parkways range from 200-300 feet. Phillips said the requirement doesn't take specific site concerns and the natural layout of the land into consideration.

“The topography in the Northland is so unique,” said Phillips.

“There are hills, streams, and a lot of other natural features so the discussion has been wouldn't it be better just to take a 150 feet of right-of-way because the natural features make that more realistic. We don't always need to take the biggest chunk every time.”

If the tract of land next to a park is a stream, the new proposal would allow more flexibility when deciding whether or not acquiring the stream is necessary or desired.

Another consideration being discussed, the city says, would propel the development of more pedestrian-oriented commercial development along parkways. Rather than having a half mile long parking lot located in front of a retail shopping development, Phillips proposes narrowing the width of the front parking lot and relocating additional parking on the side or behind the establishment.

This would enable pedestrians to walk across the street from one shopping district to another without getting back into their vehicle.

“In the Northland along Barry Road, you have shopping on one side and shopping on the other,” said Phillips. “We are very car-oriented, so we think nothing of driving from one side of the street to the other side of the street. But if we encouraged our developments to not have half mile of parking and have the building closer to the road, then you could literally walk from one shopping area to the another shopping area without risking life and limb.”

The proposal would allow people to access retail shopping areas without constantly getting back into the car, she said.

Proponents say the layout would also be more pleasing to the eye since an elongated parking lot would be less visible from parkways and boulevards.

In addition to the proposal for more pedestrian-oriented development along parkways, the city is discussing the idea of requiring new development to face the roadway. Commercial developers would be directed to have their front doors facing the parkway, a drive-through would be located on the side or rear of a building, and new residential developments would be designed to have the front of the house facing the park land.

“If you drive on Highway 169 you notice a lot of backyards, fences, and playsets. It is not a visually stunning look. When you put the effort into making an amenity like a parkway you should at least get the side of a house and preferably the front side of the house,” said Phillips.

The aesthetic appeal, it is hoped, will be similar to Ward Parkway where the front side of homes and front lawns face the parkway.

In southern Platte County, the back end of the new commercial development at Tiffany Springs Market Center faces a section of the popular walking and biking trail along Hwy. 152. Pedestrians on the trail can only gain access on either the east or west end of the development.

Stakeholders have also suggested the option of construction a two-lane road where parkways are planned in environmental considerate areas, as well as in locations where a four-lane roadway is unnecessarily.

Since the adopting of the Boulevard and Parkway Standards of Kansas City, Missouri in 2007, the city's parks and recreation board has actively been reviewing existing standards for land use, development, design, and construction. Those standards not only impact right-of-way, but also what may be developed in close proximity to the park property.

“As older parts of the city are reimagined and newer parts are being evaluated for development, it is the intention to have standards which allow for quality development to be made an enforceable aspect of the development code,” states the Kansas City Park and Recreation website.

The public is welcome to share their thoughts on the proposed changes by completing a survey at preservingcharacter.digicate.com. The survey will be accessible through Friday.

Final recommendations will be presented to city council this spring.