On Friday, construction crews were set to prepare tearing up the curbs on Howe Drive, a dead-end cul-de-sac off 77th Street in Prairie Village. Instead, they’re sitting on the sidelines waiting to see how the latest controversy over sidewalk construction in the city plays out.
A city policy formalized in 2012 gave residents the power to cancel planned sidewalks on their streets if 75 percent of homeowners affected by the construction voted against it. That high three-fourths threshold was set as a way to further the city’s objective to improve walkability by building new sidewalks whenever a street is rebuilt.
Since the policy went into effect, however, neighborhoods have organized to meet the 75 percent on several occasions, hampering the expansion of the city’s sidewalk network.
At the City Council meeting on Monday, a group of more than a dozen Howe Drive residents showed up to tell the councilors the block was firmly against the plan — even though they hadn’t met the 75 percent vote threshold laid out in the city’s ordinance. Neighbors complained that many people hadn’t received the letters with instructions on how to vote for or against the proposal. The letters were sent by certified mail, and if a homeowner wasn’t present to sign for it, the letter was left at the Mission Post Office for pick up. Many of the letters were still sitting in the post office when the voting deadline passed.
While acknowledging that the cul-de-sac street does not provide the kind of connectivity that make it an ideal location for a sidewalk, the council refused to kill the project outright, instead agreeing to resend the voting letters by regular mail. Howe Drive residents will have the chance again to try to meet the 75 percent level needed to kill the project.