Prairie Village council cancels two sidewalk projects, will examine entire sidewalk policy

Prairie Village homeowners turned out in droves to express their desire not to have sidewalks built on their streets.

The Prairie Village City Council on Monday halted plans for two sidewalks slated to be installed in conjunction with street resurfacing projects this summer — and made a move to formally reexamine the existing city policy that calls for sidewalks along all city streets.

Before a packed house in the council chambers, the councilors approved a motion canceling sidewalk installations that had been planned for Reeds and Outlook Streets, obliging homeowners who had come to protest the projects.

The homeowners suggested that sidewalks weren’t necessary for their streets, as they didn’t have heavy traffic flow and weren’t major connectors for motorists. Moreover, they said, sidewalk installations could damage mature trees.

Homeowners along 68th Street, 69th Terrace and Fonticello Street — where future sidewalk installations had been announced — came to the meeting en masse as well to lobby to have those projects cancelled. Because they weren’t as time sensitive, the council postponed making a decision on those projects until they have a chance to vet the current policy. That discussion is expected to take place at the council meeting August 20.

Monday’s actions were just the latest in a string of controversies since the city adopted a policy in 2000 that required the city to install sidewalks on streets that did not already have them when those streets were being resurfaced.

But on several occasions since the policy was enacted, the council has canceled sidewalk installations after members of the neighborhood protest.

Councilor Charles Clark — who noted that sidewalks are usually a benefit to the community and provide important public health and connectivity functions — was among those leading the charge to remove or completely revamp the city’s current policy.

“Good government requires predictability of results,” he said. “And our current policy doesn’t provide predictability or results. If people come out and protest, they don’t get a sidewalk. If they stay home, they do get a sidewalk. So we don’t end up following our own policy. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Instead, a number of councilors suggested, the city ought to examine a policy that allows neighborhoods that are interested in having a sidewalk to approach the city.

“I would like to see residents asking us for something they want as opposed to fighting against something they don’t want,” said Councilor Laura Wassmer.