Saturday, February 9, 2008
Sidewalks to Nowhere
Last Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Commission Meeting (broadcast on Raytown’s Public Television Channel 7) was an interesting one to watch. A heated debate took place on whether or not a business that plans to relocate in Raytown on 350 Highway should be required to build sidewalks along the right of way on 350 Highway and Blue Ridge Cutoff. The location in question is the vacated Honda Dealership on 350 Highway on the city’s western border. Mid America Coach specializes in converting automobiles, vans and buses for handicap use. They are anxious to move into the location. No one is opposed to that – in fact, they would be a welcome addition to a building that has set vacant for nearly ten years. The problem is city staff has recommended the new occupants be required to build sidewalks on Blue Ridge Cutoff and 350 Highway. After a number of motions, votes and re-votes, the Commission settled on a compromise – of sorts. Since there are no sidewalks anywhere on 350 Highway it was decided to set aside the requirement for them build sidewalks at that location. The same situation is also true for the Blue Ridge Cutoff frontage – there are no sidewalks anywhere along that street in Raytown. But for reasons that that are not clear, one member of the Commission, Tom Pettis, changed his vote on a similar motion that would have set aside the requirement on Blue Ridge Cutoff. It appears that Ward 3 Alderman Christine White, who has a seat on the Commission next to Pettis, somehow persuaded him to change his vote after he had previously voted to exempt the business from the requirement. Raytown has often been criticized for being a difficult town to open a business in. After watching the P&Z meeting the other night, it is hard not to agree. Unlike Walmart and HyVee (who are also relocating on 350 Highway), Mid America Coach is not asking for a handout in the form of a TIF or Tax Abatement to pay the bill of opening up shop in Raytown. In fact, HyVee was never approached about putting in sidewalks along 350 Highway just one mile east of this location. The issue will go before the Board of Aldermen for final approval in the near future. The Board has the authority and the ability to change the recommendation of the Commission. It is rare that such action is taken, but this is one instance when it should be taken without hesitation. An interesting footnote . . . An interesting footnote to this story is another construction project underway on Blue Ridge Boulevard and Hunter Street. The School District is building a Day Care Center at the location. Even though it is a major project, they are not being required to build curbs or sidewalks at that location for the grade school age children to use. State law exempts the District from the law being used by the city to require Mid America Coach on Blue Ridge Cutoff to build sidewalks. In a strange twist of how we govern ourselves, the entity that produces the revenue (the private business) has rules enforced on it that are exempted on the entity (the School District). Go figure!