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Costly, Controversial Johnson County Road Plan Advances; Surbaugh Votes No
Dispirited Johnson County Residents Stayed Away from Hearing Room.

On a 6-1 vote, the Johnson County Commission endorsed a proposal Thursday that could eventually connect the dots for 179th and 183rd streets in southeast Johnson County.

On the same vote, the commissioners agreed to kick back to the county planning commission a proposal concerning an extension of Nall Avenue. Although the planners had voted to recommend extending 179th Street between Metcalf and Nall avenues and 183rd Street between Nall Avenue and Mission Road, they recommended that Nall not be extended between 167th and 175th streets. The county commission shot that “no go” recommendation back for reconsideration.

At Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner David Lindstrom said he supported the planners’ recommendations concerning 179th and 183rd.

“I would like to send back for reconsideration the recommendation on Nall,” he said

Planning director Dean Palos told commissioners that it would be best to consider all three extensions together as the best way to handle the traffic patterns needed to accommodate the future growth likely to occur in the area.

Cliff Iliff, a member of the planning commission, offered the recommendation that split Nall from the other streets and fully understood the implications of the issue, Palos said. Iliff had urged that Nall not be included because of the engineering challenges -- extending Nall Avenue would involving crossing a major railroad and the Blue River -- and the potential environmental impact of the extension.

“I don’t think the planning commission will be surprised that it comes back,“ Palos said. “…Our staff is recommending that they reconsider that.”

Commissioner Ed Eilert said he understood that the street extensions are many years in the future and the action was merely designed to keep the county’s options open.

A recommendation to extend Nall should have been included, he said.

“But I’m going to vote for this because I want to move the process forward,” Eilert said.

“I don’t have any heartburn about Nall,” said Commissioner Douglas Wood.

Commission Chair Annabeth Surbaugh cast the dissenting vote.

She urged the commission to send the entire set of proposals back to the planners.

“There’s too much confusion in the public and even on our board,“ Surbaugh said. “I think everything should be reconsidered in total.“

A rehearing by the planning commission might end some of the confusion, she said.

Kenneth Klinkensmith, president of the Berry Hill Homeowners Association, sent a letter to the commission expressing the property owners’ alarm about the proposal.

“There’s no justification for the expense,” wrote Klinkensmith, who said he was unable to attend the meeting.

The homeowners group is opposed to extending any of the streets, he wrote.

The proposals have stirred fierce public opposition in previous hearings from residents in the Stilwell area. They’ve said that developing the roads would promote urban sprawl and ruin the rural character of the area, provide an opportunity for Overland Park to make another try at annexation of the area and cause unacceptable environmental damage.

They also see it as another round in a long battle over proposals to create a major east-west artery that would connect a Missouri intermodal freight center with a proposed intermodal center near Gardner. Many regard the newest proposal as a backdoor way to resurrect the artery.

“People thought the South Metro Connector was done,” Surbaugh said. “It’s been stated that none of these roads are going to be.” The South Metro Connector was one of the failed proposals to build an east-west artery.

“The South Metro Corridor is dead and we‘ve moved on,” Wood said. If a east-west artery were to be brought back, it would be farther south -- most likely in Miami County, he said.

By law, city or county commissioners can’t reverse a planning commission recommendation without a super-majority vote. Instead they have to send it back to the planners for reconsideration.

Palos said he didn’t know when Nall would be back before the planners but that he would try to get it to them as quickly as possible.

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