In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Overland Park City Council address.
Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to the citizens of Overland Park.
Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:
Climate change continues to be top of mind for many Shawnee Mission Post readers. What steps can Overland Park take to prepare neighborhoods for increased flooding, along with extreme heat and drought events? What steps would you like to see the city take to build climate resilience?
Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on the issue:
Climate change is not something we as a council can affect in a real direct way!
We can manage how we handle water shed and turning Overland Park into a concrete jungle. We need green spaces, treed areas to help climate change. My focus is to make sure that our city staff will be those experts. They will recommend and have a long range plan to move our city ahead in this area that will balance our needs in building responsibly, to insure we are prepared for all that Mother Nature sends our way. Having this plan may have saved a lot of money in the Deer Creek area as we move ahead addressing our hose drainage areas!
Stacie Gram (incumbent)
Overland Park should lead the way in sustainability. Overland Park factors climate change and sustainability into many decisions and is aided by the resident-led Environmental Advisory Council. For example, sustainability will be a key consideration in the Infrastructure Advisory Group’s upcoming discussions. We also are fortunate to have the Mid-America Regional Council’s Climate Action KC Plan as a road map for our region and I support using the plan as a guide for Overland Park.
To help address flooding, we should support replacing and adding trees around new and existing homes, public common areas and commercial structures and along streamways. Urban forestry and canopies cool the city and prevent flooding. We also should stabilize slopes with vegetation and make sure our public spaces and commercial development have plant diversity and pollinator habitats. This is an area of opportunity not only for funding from the city but civic and volunteer groups.
In new development we should consider options that reduce the footprint of streets and parking lots. We should also try to develop ‘complete’ streets and mixed developments that encourage more walking and biking and less driving. We can use lighter colored building materials to reduce heat absorption. We need to figure out ways to incentivize developers to meet heightened sustainability design standards. I support the addition of a part or full-time sustainability director as part of our city staff. If elected, I would also like to build a coalition of homeowners’ associations, home builders, and businesses to adapt our neighborhoods to improvements like solar panels.
The most impactful thing we can do is avoid over-developing land. We should not propose to rezone golf courses into multi-use apartments and commercial properties, especially when it’s adjacent to beautiful, peaceful, single-family neighborhoods. About 7% of the total land area in Overland Park is in a FEMA-designated floodplain. Although much of this land includes parks, streamway corridors and open space areas, more than 400 buildings are in a floodplain including some neighborhoods.
We can mitigate this threat with expanding our green infrastructure (native plants, trees) which helps to absorb water. With a tree in our city’s logo and park in our city’s name, we should be a leader in building climate resilience!
I love that the Overland Park Legacy of Greenery Committee created the Canopy Street of Excellence award. Congratulations to the residents off of 101st in Pinehurst Estates who were the first recipients of this award! Not only does the shade from canopy streets lower the temperature of the street, they add character to the neighborhood. Canopy trees are those with continuously spaced trees near the street with overarching limbs that are usually touching, creating a canopy. We should partner with this committee to help support additional climate resilience efforts!
One of the items that has continually impressed me about Overland Park is the city and residents ability to plan ahead. I’d like projections for how our city will be impacted by climate change to be factored into our city planning and committee activities to have a cohesive strategy to drive ongoing success. Solutions will take all of us talking about priorities and ideas of how to get there – residents and HOAs, the business community like the homebuilders and chamber of commerce, our city’s professional staff all working together. We also have to remember that the climate doesn’t stop at the city limits, so we’re not solving these issues in a vacuum, we’re part of the larger region and country and our solutions have to be cognizant of that.
I will direct you to the NOAA.gov site for information on rainfall by region in the U.S. for the last 120 years. No region has a trend of increased or decreased rainfall over the past 120 years, so your question begins with a false narrative. The reason that all Cities experience water run-off challenges as they grow is that density trades natural areas that slowly absorb the rain for concrete and asphalt which do not. So, as we continue developing the City, we need to have a comprehensive plan (that includes adjacent Cities) for a storm drain system that can handle the increased flows during heavy rains.
Chris Newlin (incumbent)
Overland Park is not going to solve the issue of climate change on its own. Overland Park has taken steps to be “climate forward” with our recycling center and keeping an ordinance in place which requires all trash haulers to offer recycling at the curb. Plus, several other initiatives through our parks and recreation department.
The city continues to look for ways to be more sustainable when we are erecting a new building or improving the current structures. A great example of this is the recent partnership we struck with Schneider Electric. Schneider Electric is modernizing the building mechanics at the Justice Sanders Center and has guaranteed $10.8 million savings over a period of 20 years through improvements. These improvements will create a better and more efficient water and heating system creating savings in energy and our carbon footprint.
I support following the guidelines set forth by Metropolitan KC Climate Action Playbook. This playbook is supported by the Mid America Regional Council (MARC) which helps us to work collaboratively with all the communities within our region. This will also be one of my questions for the next potential city manager on how they plan to support sustainability for Overland Park.
Overland Park also should continue to invest in our Storm Water program. Ward 6 (South OP), in recent years has seen its share of unusually high water due torrential rain. When we are developing a new neighborhood it is important to analyze what effect the water run off is going to produce to affect homes downstream.
This exact scenario occurred at 170th Terrace and Switzer Road over the last 4 years. Prior to my service on the council the Terrybrook neighborhood was approved. As the development of the neighborhood built out, the homes to the north experienced an increase in runoff and the retention pods were not insificent. Water was encroaching so close to the homes and running over 170th Terrace that it created a very dangerous situation. The neighbors asked me to intercede on their behalf and request that the city arrive at a solution.
Over several years, I was able to work out a solution that would create a way for the Terrybrook storm water to flow underground directly into Overland Park storm drains. This project involved the cooperation of residents allowing the city to use their property as easement for the installation of a new underground pipe. Later this year, this project should be successfully completed in time for the spring run off and rains.
On Friday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to question #5:
What’s the top thing you’d like to be able to say about the city of Overland Park four years from now that you can’t say today? What should the city government be doing to make that a reality?