Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Prairie Village.
Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item four:
The city is in the process of updating its comprehensive plan to set goals for the coming decades. What goals are you hoping to see in the Village Vision 2.0 document?
City Council Ward 2
I attended both of the community workshops for Village Vision 2.0. It was a wonderful opportunity to engage with residents and share ideas and goals for Prairie Village.
One of the most talked about priorities at the workshop was maintaining the charm of our neighborhoods. Residents were not only concerned about large home development companies purchasing multiple homes at a time and virtually transforming entire blocks in our community, they were also concerned about problems with the upkeep of these properties prior to demolition. A number of home building companies purchase multiple homes at a time, on the same block, and they sit vacant and neglected for months at a time. These properties become blighted and overgrown, which is not only a public nuisance, but a safety issue as well.
A priority for me is creating a Code of Conduct that both public and private developers must adhere to so that these issues can be alleviated. I will also push for the implementation of an architectural review board so that there is some oversight in regards to consistency in materials and design with a new build in relation to surrounding homes in the neighborhood.
Residents were also worried about losing our affordable housing stock to these large scale home developing companies, as well as the impact they have had on rising property taxes, which have skyrocketed over the last few years. Many seniors, young families, and those on fixed incomes are being priced out of Prairie Village. We must come up with some solid plans to maintain our affordable housing stock. I am passionate about finding solutions to this problem.
I urge readers to research my opponent online. I found her connections to developers to be troubling in the 2018 mayoral race and am concerned that these relationships would hinder her ability to represent the needs of our ward when it comes to municipal housing policy.
I already see Prairie Village as a leader in beautiful green spaces, environmental sustainability, and charm. We need to ensure that we are proactive as a community to prevent these attributes from slipping away, while at the same time striving to be a welcoming community for those who wish to be a part of this wonderful city.
Serena Schermoly (incumbent)
Did not respond.
City Council Ward 3
It is extremely exciting to think about the possibilities for Prairie Village in the coming years and decades. One of the interesting things about the original Village Vision from 2005-2007 is how relevant that plan remains today. We’ve accomplished some of the goals (e.g., Meadowbrook), but many of the others are still aspirational or in progress (e.g., improving 75th Street). In that sense, I hope that many of the same goals remain in place. But looking further into the future, the overarching challenge for the City is how we grow and modernize, while preserving the unique character of our community.
First, given our aging housing inventory, we will need to incentivize investment in a culture of home maintenance and home improvements that fit in with the existing neighborhoods to provide opportunities for all homeowners. I’ve proposed an expansion of our current Exterior Grant Program, which provides one avenue towards encouraging re-investment in our homes.
Second, we need to continue to work to improve transportation, sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths, and inter-mixing of commercial and residential spaces. Having accessible commercial spaces is a win-win for residents, businesses, and our city by keeping money local.
Third, as we move to the future, we need to recognize that there will be a continued trend towards remote workspaces, which will put some pressure on our existing office spaces. But this is an opportunity for the City to encourage many of the residents that currently commute into other areas of the metro for work to stay right here in Prairie Village. We should foster places in the community where remote workers can gather and work alongside each other.
Finally, as the density of our inner-loop suburbs continues to increase, we will have to work harder to preserve the green spaces, parks, and tree-lined streets that are so central to the City’s charm. I am especially proud that during my time serving the City on the Parks and Recreation Committee, we were able to preserve for future generations two new parks in Meadowbrook and Wassmer (67th & Roe).
- Sustainability goals set for new commercial construction and renovations.
- Recognition of, and intent to address, affordable housing while we await the results from the County Housing Study
- Coordinated partnerships with the County, MARC, SMSD, the Y, JCPRD, JoCo Library, and more to bring high quality and relevant programming to Prairie Village residents right in our own neighborhood parks and gathering spaces. Programs for physical health, mental health, composting, recycling, solar power, you name it; whatever the City’s residents are interested in and excited about.
City Council Ward 5
Our city’s most well-traveled corridors are a live wire of pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle travel. We experience serious issues with excessive speeds, collisions and fatalities. Our city needs to invest in “smart” infrastructure that is built for tomorrow, not the days of old.
Through creative use of smart signal and lighting systems, (and improved signage) a traffic modernization project will enhance public safety, make our roadways more efficient and reduce transportation-related green house gasses.
Fully separated and protected bike lanes (fortified with stanchions, planters and the like) have been shown to be the strongest indicator of lower fatality and injury rates for all road users including drivers.
The city should continue to implement more efficient street lights. Part of my KU Certified Public Manager Capstone Project (as outlined here four years ago) called for the city to switch to LED street lights and to purchase the lights from KCP&L instead of renting them. These changes resulted in millions of dollars in savings. It is now time to proceed to Phase 2 and begin a gradual transformation to wind & solar-powered street lights in order to realize even greater dollar savings. Energy efficiency is just the tip of the iceberg as smart lighting provides the fastest on-ramp to a connected city.
New trails & sidewalks should use the new extremely porous urethane based paving system made with recycled tires. It is cheaper, longer-lasting, non-cracking, softer, & ADA compliant. It also eliminates “black ice”, and reduces storm water runoff.
At one time our municipal pool complex was without equal when compared to other cities. While it is still a tremendous asset, it could use an update. There are many things such as a “lazy river” that we could do to make it better.
The city was blindsided by the loss of Mission Valley Middle School. Demographic studies show that the southern end of the city needs a new middle school. (Even former SM School Superintendent Jim Henson admitted as much.) We need to be pro-active in identifying a future school site location. Neighborhood schools anchor our community & guarantee our long-term viability.
I won originally won election to the council because I advocated for Meadowbrook Park. City parks must remain a high priority.
In the long run, municipal broadband would generate significant savings and improve the city’s connectivity.
Courtney McFadden (incumbent)
Prairie Village adopted the Village Vision in 2007 which was meant to be a comprehensive plan for the city. The document laid out numerous priorities including housing opportunities, considerations for development or redevelopment and plans for specific areas. The document also identified shared goals for the city around Community Character, Community Facilities, Housing, Land Resources, Leadership & Governance, Learning, Prosperity and Transportation. The original document was born out of two years of extensive public involvement in order to garner input to compile the final data. Since its adoption the city staff, mayors and councils have been able to utilize the document in order to implement most of the priorities. Although the priorities may be outdated, the shared goals that were agreed upon are all still relevant today. Consequently, it is my view that we should be focused on the priorities. After viewing our Planning Commission meeting where the demographic information was covered, then reviewing the data in city council and then attending a public meeting, it is apparent to me we need to include priority areas, such as housing, our retail centers, the environment and City Hall area in our next document. Housing will continue to be important as we see our design standards in effect and as our housing stock continues to age. Our retail centers will need to be a point of focus as they are a revenue source for the city, and we need to strive to protect our small and local businesses. The environment is a key priority for both our council and our citizens. The City Hall area should be addressed for a possible community center site, pool enhancements and park improvements. All said, I am encouraged that the city is working hard to encourage public participation in outlining priorities in the updated document and am excited to see the outcome of the process.
Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item five:
In recent months, city officials from across the metro area have been coordinating on ideas that local governments can take to address climate change. Do you support the idea of city government taking steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Why or why not?