Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Basehor to focus on Highway 7 access

Development north of city key to city’s economic future

July 31, 2003

Resolving access problems from developments north of Basehor to Kansas Highway 7 is growing more critical for the long-term growth of Basehor, city officials said Monday night.

"We need to really start fighting for access if we want it," Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer said during Monday night's City Council meeting. "We're going to need to make some decisions and soon.

"It's the most important thing we need to discuss right now."

Those concerns along the K-7 corridor were only heightened following Monday night's preliminary approval of the annexation of 80 acres of land fronting the highway, which is slated for commercial use. The land is owned by Shawnee developers, Tom and Ben Zarda. (see related story, page 1A)

Their land sits in front of the Falcon Lakes development, a 550-home residential area and 18-hole public golf course, which was annexed by the City Council in 2001.

For the city and those developments, fighting for highway access is paramount to sustaining economic development. However, the crucible is that KDOT is considering whether to design K-7 as a freeway or expressway.

Thus far, state transportation officials have not given an indication either way on future plans for the highway.

Currently, Falcon Lakes and the Zarda brothers' property cannot be directly accessed from the highway.

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) mandated Falcon Lakes close its $1.4 million access road -- Falcon Lakes Parkway -- last year, after developers received permission to build the road from K-7 into the housing addition and golf course.

Currently, there are only two points of access into the development -- Hollingsworth and Donahoo roads -- neither of which are as attractive as Falcon Lakes Parkway.

Falcon Lakes representatives said KDOT is considering building acceleration and deceleration lanes at Hollingsworth and K-7 to accommodate traffic flow.

A letter from the developer to the Leavenworth County Commission opposes KDOT's proposed solution.

"We have hosted golf tournaments and have found that this exit and Hollingsworth Road are inappropriate due to safety issues. This is without even considering the additional future traffic to be brought about by the additional 400 residences to be built in Falcon Lakes," according to the letter, which asks for county support in resolving the highway access problem.

The Zarda brothers also plan to petition state and county officials for highway access, Tom Zarda told City Council members Monday night.

The city and both developers want the highway exposure a K-7 access road would offer.

"We need to do anything we can to get our point across that this is a revenue situation for us," Scherer said.

A meeting between city and KDOT officials is scheduled for Aug. 7.

Falcon Lakes general manager Dean Ralston said KDOT's closure of Falcon Lakes Drive has slowed sales.

"I think if you ask anyone, it's had a negative impact as far as home sales goes," Ralston said. "If that road was open, a heck of a lot more people would stop in and look around.

"We're going to grow no matter what but that (highway access) will impact how fast we're going to grow."

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