Archive for Thursday, August 21, 2003

Falcon Lakes grapples with KDOT decision

They went back on their word.”

August 21, 2003

To say the decision by the Kansas Department of Transportation to close an access road from the Falcon Lakes development to Kansas Highway 7 proved costly would be an understatement.

Forget the $1.5 million it cost to build the road in question, Falcon Lakes Parkway. Never mind the $350,000 developers spent to replace Falcon Lakes Parkway by building Clubhouse Drive.

But under no circumstances can the $13 million price tag -- the construction cost for building the residential area, 18-hole public golf course and clubhouse/restaurant -- be ignored.

Had developers known from the outset that direct highway access from Falcon Lakes to Kansas Highway 7 would not be allowed, the 580-acre tract in Basehor would not have been selected as the location for the development, Falcon Lakes owner Rustom Ferzandi said in an interview this week.

"Because of (the transportation department's initial highway approval) we started building the whole subdivision," Ferzandi said. "Highway access was 100 percent a go and then after we built (Falcon Lakes Parkway) KDOT changed their mind.

"If we knew what was going to happen, we wouldn't have even bought the land."

After granting developers permission to build the access road and following its completion, state transportation officials ruled that the road should be barricaded.

Falcon Lakes' direct access had been closed off; with the road's closure, the development would not receive the attractive highway exposure Falcon Lakes Parkway offered.

Earlier this month, transportation department representatives told Basehor city officials the road was ordered closed because it was a safety concern and that it didn't fit into the department's future concept of K-7 as a freeway with limited access points.

The state is offering to improve Hollingsworth Road and possibly Donohoo Road -- the two remaining access points into Falcon Lakes from the highway. However, the improvements pale in comparison to what Falcon Lakes Parkway offered, development representatives said.

"They went back on their word," Ferzandi said. "They're making everybody suffer today for what may happen in 20 years. And for what? So a person going to Lansing or Leavenworth can get there five minutes faster?"

The state's decision has had dire consequences for Falcon Lakes.

Within the first two months of opening the subdivision in 2002, 32 lots were sold at Falcon Lakes. Since Falcon Lakes Parkway was barricaded later that year, just two lots have been sold.

Today, developers can only wonder, what if.

"By now, we would have sold 100 homes," Ferzandi said. "We're 20 years back after making our investment. The state and KDOT have not even cared about how much revenue they're losing."

State and Falcon Lakes representatives are working on a deal that would condemn Falcon Lakes Parkway and include the state making restitution for the road and business lost, Ferzandi said.

The deal is a moot point, however, and Ferzandi said the problems at Falcon Lakes should only heighten a broader concern for the K-7 corridor. Development along K-7 will become stagnant should the highway be converted to a freeway, he said.

"The city of Basehor loses, Leavenworth County loses and the state loses," Ferzandi said. "The whole K-7 corridor is going to be in very poor financial state if they make K-7 a freeway. My feelings are it's going to affect the community very much. Growth will be very slow.

"This has a ripple effect nobody cares for."

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