Rock Creek flooding
Rock Creek has become an increasing flooding hazard for Fairway residents who live along the waterway. What actions does Fairway need to take to address the issue?
We were not able to make contact with Mr. Bowen.
The dangerous and damaging perennial flooding of Rock Creek demands a long-term if not a permanent solution, and it must be the top priority for the City. The storms from this past summer alone likely caused at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage along and near State Park Road, for example, and required the rescue of several vehicles and people. One such incident occurred near my home on Chadwick, which is located five houses from State Park Road. It is highly unlikely that Fairway can address this complex issue by itself – the scope and magnitude of the problem will certainly require the cooperation and collaboration of multiple municipalities and agencies. It is clear going forward that the engineers, hydrologists, and other professionals working with Fairway and its partners will need to find creative and sustainable ways to divert, reduce, or retain the flow of water entering the city. Increasing the capacity of Rock Creek is probably not an option, as it does not allow for substantial widening and trenching throughout its length. Removing additional homes from the floodplain is clearly undesirable and will not gain support from the affected neighborhoods. Some in city government have suggested maintaining existing green space and possibly changing the path and elevation of State Park Road as an interim fix. Such nostrums can and should be part of a broader strategy. Beyond the greater Rock Creek issue, individual homeowners, as part of routine and sensible water management, should be encouraged to use rain barrels, to introduce swales between and within properties, and to daylight their gutters and sump pump discharges into their yards and not near the street.
The flooding of Rock Creek is the single most important issue that Fairway must address. This past year has brought multiple significant rainfall events causing residents along Rock Creek to experience high levels of water in their homes and around their properties that have never been seen. This is not only a property issue, but a safety issue with these water levels rising quicker and currents being stronger than ever. With my degree and background in Geological Engineering, I have the experience and skills to tackle this issue head-on. This problem cannot solely be resolved by Fairway, it will require a joint effort between Fairway and the cities both upstream and downstream (Mission, Roeland Park, and Mission Hills) as well as Johnson County and the Army Corps of Engineers in order to produce a long-term viable solution. The results of this partnership will need to change the current trend of quickly moving water downstream through channelizing which then overflows Rock Creek and instead provide methods of detainment upstream. The detainment of water upstream will incorporate a thorough analysis of the recent rainfall totals as well as the APWA 5600 (Storm Drainage Systems and Facilities) standards, which are being updated as we speak. This has also now become a time critical issue with the recent approval by the Mission City Council of the newest Gateway proposal. As a member of the Fairway City Council I will work to find a timely solution that ultimately manages the amount of water flowing through Fairway during peak storm events with the least impact to our residents and city.
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Next projects for the city
Fairway has made significant improvements recently with an updated pool, a new public works building and the purchasing of a building for the new city hall. What major projects need to be tackled next to continue to improve Fairway?
At least two major infrastructure improvements are needed now in Fairway to enhance the quality of life and safety for its residents, and to keep its businesses in business. The first improvement involves upgrades to the older and degraded electric service lines, including new poles, lines, and switches. Such activity is already underway on some streets in Ward 1, for example, on the utility easement between Chadwick and Aberdeen Roads. This activity must continue throughout the city in order to minimize the days without power and to reduce the inconvenience (or worse) to households and businesses. The Fairway Shops in particular suffered several outages with these past summer storms, including one that occurred on a Sunday and that closed several establishments on the busiest day of the week. Such events result in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in revenues, income, and tax receipts, among other things. The second major improvement relates to the traffic congestion along Shawnee Mission Parkway between Belinder and Roeland, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. These chokepoints reduce commute times, reduce emergency vehicle response times, and increase air pollution. Solutions to these critical issues should include not only better timing of signals, but also and especially adding dedicated left turn lanes and lights at Belinder and Shawnee Mission Parkway to facilitate the flow of traffic both north and south, and east and west. The proposed addition of left turning lanes at Belinder has previously been discussed as part the City’s Comprehensive Plan and should move forward.
The overwhelmingly consensus from meeting residents is that Fairway is in a solid spot, when evaluated holistically. The incoming Mayor has big shoes to fill preceding Mayor Wiley. During his tenure the aforementioned large projects have successfully been completed, a new Comprehensive Plan is in place, and the city is in a sound fiscal position. Fairway is on a very short list of top tier cities within the metro and we should continue with the current inertia.
Aside from the flooding of Rock Creek, which is the largest and most important issue, Fairway should also focus on the following:
Future of Shawnee Indian Mission – Fairway is unique in that we have a National Historic Landmark within our city boundaries, the only such designation in Johnson County. Fairway is in the second year of a three-year agreement to provide funds to operate the mission with the ultimate goal being the establishment of an endowment that repays Fairway and provides for long term running and maintenance of the property. Fairway and its citizens should do everything in our power to promote this effort.
Electrical Infrastructure Upgrades – Being the City of Trees, we must look towards the future with a goal of minimizing power outages and outage time. This past summer, Fairway had the highest percentage of houses without power and residents were the last to have power restored, as there are many small circuits feeding individual blocks, which are a lower priority. A study needs to be performed to understand what makes the most economical sense for our electrical infrastructure and then work with KCP&L towards a more sustainable solution. Due to recent reductions in industry costs for directional borings, a combination of reinforcing antiquated lines, upgrading transformers and burying lines is the solution which we must push for.
Are there amenities that Fairway lacks today that you’d like to see come to the city? If so, what are they, and how can the city work to attract them?
Fairway is primarily residential and that is a good and desirable thing. Fortunately it is also very close to major amenities and attractions such as the Country Club Plaza and Loose Park, for example, and just a short drive to the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Having said that, the residents are already able to enjoy within the city itself the unique amenities offered by the Fairway Shops and the nationally historic Shawnee Indian Mission. The residents and visitors to the City of Trees would certainly appreciate the opportunity to spend even more time at the grounds of the Mission, perhaps by adding a coffee house or a limited hours cafe and gift shop at one of the buildings not directly adjacent to residences. In addition to the hugely successful Fall Festival, movies, and exhibits, the city should consider additional events to celebrate the other seasons, and to promote the cultural, historic, and social significance of the Shawnee Indian Mission – The Crossroads of Culture.
While talking with residents of Fairway over the past months, the overwhelmingly consensus agree that Fairway is already a great city to live in. The small town feel, while being located within minutes of surrounding cities and amenities make it a wonderful place to live. That being said, looking forward to the next ten years, we as a city need to be using the newly developed Comprehensive Plan to guide decisions. With highly traveled roads such as Shawnee Mission Parkway and Mission Road, Fairway should work to improve walkability and bikeability routes throughout Fairway as well as the interconnectivity with our neighboring cities. Residents near Shawnee Mission Parkway have expressed the need to have accessibility to cross the major thoroughfare at locations other than Mission Road and the Fairway Shops. In addition, cyclists travel through Fairway on a regular basis and special lanes should be established to allow cyclists and vehicles to share the road. In addition, many residents have expressed traffic calming measures be implemented on secondary side streets such as Neosho Lane, north of Shawnee Mission Parkway. As a member of the Fairway City Council I will work to improve the walkability and non-vehicular travel throughout the city to make it more safe and accessible for residents and their children.