Council wrestles with boulevard standards that would reach from Linwood to the northland

Parks Board President Jean Paul Chaurand

Parks Board President Jean Paul Chaurand

Is what is good for Linwood Boulevard also good for new development in the northland? That was one of the questions a city council committee wrestled with today in a lengthy discussion of parkway and boulevard standards.

In a push to complete legislation before a new city council takes office in August, the city council planning and zoning committee today approved a compromise proposal and sent it to the full council for a vote on Thursday.

On July 9, the committee first heard proposed standards for development along parks and boulevards that have been in the making for two years. The parks department had worked with neighborhoods, citizens and developers to create the standards. But as the proposal reached the council committee, a group of developers came forward with a differing version, saying the original proposal would stifle development, especially in the northland.

The council then asked City Planning Director Jeffrey Williams to, if possible, work on a compromise between the two versions. Williams today told the committee there remained a lack of consensus on several issues and presented a compromise plan.

said the board had already compromised on a number of issues, and could not support Williams’ compromise.

The original proposal, he said, “is a path for the parks and boulevard system to be strengthened and expanded for generations to come.

He said the original standards were meant strengthen the original vision of George Kessler and developers of the park and boulevard system 150 years ago.

The discussion around banning gas stations on parkways and boulevards was one of the most contentious areas, and one that highlighted the difference views north and south of the river.

“One of the reasons I asked for these standards was the deterioration of Linwood Boulevard, “Councilman Glover said.

He cited examples of three gas stations along that boulevard, including one that had been erected with little public notice on a lot where a building had been removed. Glover said he would like to see gas stations prohibited along boulevards like Linwood.

But Councilman Scott Taylor argued that gas stations with convenience stores are important amenities, especially in new areas of the city.

The committee chose a compromise position prohibiting gas stations on boulevards but allowing them at the intersection of a parkway and a major arterial road on large lots with buffering or landscaping.

Another sticking point in today’s discussion was whether homes should be required to face a parkway or boulevard.

Chaurand told the committee the board did not want to compromise on that original proposal, a practice that is standard in older parts of the city but not in newer developments in the northland, which backyards often front major streets.

“We are not anti-backyards. We are just super pro-front yards,” Chartrand said.

But Attorney Jim Bowers, speaking for the coalition of developers, called this area a “very serious issue.”

“The marketplace does not reward subdivisions with homes fronting the parkway,” he said, citing research done by his clients Hunt Midwest and the Home Builders Association.

Several council members said they were concerned about that research. Three of the five committee members agreed to a compromise: infill housing would have to follow the existing pattern of adjacent development. New development on a boulevard would have to face the boulevard and on a parkway, homes would not have to face the parkway but would have to have sufficient buffering.

Councilman Ed Ford said the distinction between boulevards and parkways was important because many of the new roads to be constructed in the Twin Creeks area will be parkways. Some speculate Twin Creeks could complete with Johnson County and attract 60,000 to 70,000 new residents over the next 30 years.

The Planning and Zoning committee has spent long hours this month attempting to finish up legislation before current council members leave the council. Today was their last committee meeting.

“Whatever we do today, there will be an opportunity for the next council to perfect and tweak,” Ford said.

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