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Friday, Apr. 05, 2013

Lenexa OKs bonds for project that worries Olathe neighbors

Special to The Star

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A 120-acre commercial project in Lenexa that has drawn opposition from neighbors in Olathe moved another step closer to construction this week.

The Lenexa City Council approved $103 million in industrial revenue bonds to finance construction of the Lenexa Logistic Centre on the southwest corner of College and Renner boulevards.

Some residents of Olathe, which abuts the site, are concerned about the noise, traffic and diesel fumes from trucks the center will bring into their neighborhood.

Some of those neighbors crowded into the council’s March 19 meeting to protest. However, Lenexa has said proper care will be taken in the design of the center to protect the neighborhood.

Councilman Tom Nolte said the city has gone “above and beyond” in its setback and traffic circulation requirements on the development. The project, which will cover 120 acres, will benefit the whole area, he said.

“Two weeks ago the ones here were very scared. They felt they were being put upon,” he said. But he said the neighbors who said Lenexa was turning a deaf ear to their complaints because they were not Lenexa voters were wrong, Nolte said. “Even if they had been Lenexa residents I would have voted the same way.”

The council voted to show its intent to proceed with the bonds and with a special benefit district to finance a street and detention basin related to the center. Those items will be up for further action and public hearing later.

Typically, industrial revenue bonds are repaid by the developer, not the city.

Other business

95th and I-35 reconstruction: How does a city rebuild one of the busiest intersections in the area without destroying all the nearby businesses?

That is the question weighing heavily on Lenexa City Council members’ minds as they ponder the impending reconstruction of the interchange at 95th Street and Interstate 35.

Several council members worried about the work’s impact on hotels, restaurants and small businesses at a recent meeting where they were presented with options about which parts of the interchange to close and when.

The city is planning a total redo of the intersection, which is the gateway to Oak Park Mall and the surrounding shopping areas and motels. The two-year project is still in the planning stages, but would include an unusual “diverging diamond” traffic flow pattern in which cars are streamed through in a criss-cross pattern and pedestrians use a protected walkway down the middle.

The project may begin as early as 2014.

The council considered options on how to stage the construction. One option would close half the interchange at a time, another would keep one lane open in each direction. A third option, recommended by staff, would close the entire intersection for the duration of construction. Doing so would cut the construction time from around 300 days to 180 days, and could keep the cost down, according to the staff study.

However some council members worried that cutting off all traffic to the intersection could be deadly to all the businesses around it.

“That traffic is their lifeblood and they need it,” said councilman Tom Nolte. “We’ve about killed Old Town Lenexa, we’ve improved it so much,” he said, referring to recently completed road work on 87th Street.

Council member Andy Huckaba agreed, saying the council must consider the impact very carefully. “It’s a hard problem. I’m a little nervous about it,” he said.

Councilman Steve Lemons also wondered about increased response time for fire and ambulance, particularly to nursing homes on the east side of the interstate.

But other council members, including Joe Karlin, Mandy Stuke and Mayor Mike Boehm said it might be better to cut off all traffic for a short period of time rather than slow it down for a longer period. “I would rather we get it done and get out of there and resume traffic. Get it done quickly and move on,” said Karlin.

The council decided to think about it a little longer before making a decision, possibly at a special meeting next week.

In the meantime, the city and Kansas transportation officials are in talks about whether the 95th Street interchange should be included in the Johnson County Gateway project, which is a redo of the I-35/I-435/K-10 intersection just down the interstate from 95th Street.

Park land swap: A small park near Mize Lake with poor public access will be traded to a developer who also has offered to dedicate a larger area nearby with more parking options to public use.

The City Council voted to allow a land swap with developer Park Ridge LLC in the Canyon Creek by the Lake subdivision. The city will give up a little less than an acre near the intersection of Kansas 7 and Kansas 10 in exchange for a similar amount of land from the developer, said Parks and Recreation Director Gary Ristow. However, the land the city is giving up is more consolidated while the land it gains comes in five small scraps along the edges of the development.

People who wanted to go to the city’s Mize Lake park had to go through the subdivision and parking was limited, Ristow said. He said the developer has promised to make 2.3 acres available in the near future on the north side of the lake. That land would have access on Zarda Drive, and would be big enough for a small playground and shelter, Ristow said.

The developer will build on the land the city is giving up, he said.

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