Residents balk at planned Green Park Road improvements

Aldermanic president states it’s unfair for citizens to criticize board

By BURKE WASSON

Residents near Green Park Road were told in October that they would be asked to sacrifice some property for the road’s redevelopment. But owners of 18 homes last week warned they would not.

A petition signed by residents who pledged they “will not approve the grading permit required to intrude upon my non-easement property” to construct sidewalks on the south side of Green Park Road was presented Jan. 16 to the Green Park Board of Aldermen.

The petition was signed by 19 residents at 18 homes — 16 of which are on Green Park Road. Residents on nearby Mueller Road and Lisa Marie Court also signed the intent to deny permits.

As planned, Green Park Road would be widened by two feet in each lane to make 12-foot lanes on each side. The estimated $2.2 million project — 80 percent of which will be funded through a federal grant — would stretch roughly 6,000 feet along Green Park Road from Tesson Ferry Road to Lin Valle Drive.

Preliminary design plans call for eliminating drop-offs and ditches from the road and replacing them with curbs on each side. Because the curbing would replace ditches on each side of the road, a storm sewer would be installed across the length of Green Park Road.

Project engineer Tom Weis of the Weis Design Group also has said substantial grade changes would be made at the road’s intersections with Kohrs Lane, Mueller Road and Lisa Marie Court to improve sight-line visibility and provide better curb alignment.

For pedestrian access, Weis’ plan proposes a six-foot-wide sidewalk on the road’s south side, where a majority of homes along Green Park Road are located. The road also would see crosswalks at Mueller Road, Antrill Drive and possibly other intersections to allow for easier access to Clydesdale Park, which is on the road’s north side.

Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach, who lives on Green Park Road and also signed the petition to deny permits, said at the Jan. 16 meeting that the administration and her fellow aldermen ignored opposition to the sidewalk construction at an Oct. 30 public hearing on the project.

Reading from a letter attached to the residents’ petition, Betlach told aldermen that she and nearby homeowners are perplexed that an area already inundated with short driveways could possibly have its residential property reduced even more.

“With the exception of the Mueller to Tesson Ferry neighborhood, nowhere else in the city of Green Park are residents confronted with short-driveway parking,” Betlach said. “And yet it is only here that these very same residents are singled out by city officials to be subjected to an additional five- to six-foot deduction from their already-short driveways. The reason given is that these sidewalks — not shoulders — are required so that two wheelchairs — and they would have to be motorized to climb that hill and/or have very good brakes — can pass.”

Betlach also pointed out that Green Park Road’s redevelopment would move existing telephone poles further into residential property.

“Even more insulting is that during the one and only (Oct. 30) public hearing for the planned Green Park Road changes, there was a public outcry against these six-foot sidewalks from being constructed on the residential side of the street,” Betlach said. “Despite this overwhelming outcry, the voice of the citizens was ignored.”

The letter further states that the proposed project would not provide adequate alleviation of traffic backups and no substantial improvement for emergency-vehicle access.

The project does include a provision to minimize traffic stacking near Green Park Road’s intersection with Tesson Ferry Road by proposing an additional right-turn lane at the Tesson Ferry stoplight.

But in light of requested access onto residential property, Betlach told aldermen that she and other residents believe city officials should reconsider the project altogether.

“In protest to the obscenity of this situation, I have been asked to present the following list of residents who refuse to provide the city with any grading permits related to this road along with an earnest request for the city to rethink its ridiculous design and to conform to the clearly stated goal of its own 2005 comprehensive plan,” Betlach said.

She and the letter both referred to Policy 2.1.1, which states it is the city’s plan to “preserve, reinforce and upgrade existing residential neighborhoods by preventing the incursion of non-residential uses into residential areas.”

Weis previously indicated to aldermen that he would present right-of-way easement estimates in the spring to the board and then begin gathering residents’ signatures to have access to property needed for construction. He said those signatures would need to be acquired by July to conform with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s August deadline. Weis has also said he would like to put the Green Park Road reconstruction out to bid in November and begin construction in the spring of 2008.

In response to opposition to the project from Betlach and residents, board President Fred Baras of Ward 3 said he believes it unfair for residents to criticize aldermen because the board has discussed the project with Weis for years.

“We had all types of work sessions with Tom Weis,” Baras said. “We gave him our concerns. We gave him our ideas.”

“And those were concepts,” Betlach interjected.

“We had a number of them,” Baras said.

“This is the materialization of it,” Betlach said.

“And we had a number of them,” Baras said. “Alright? So I don’t see why this board is being criticized for issues that everybody put their mind into.”

“You don’t see?” Betlach said.

“You put your ideas into it,” Baras responded. “(Former Ward 2 Alderman) Tony (Konopka) put his ideas into it …”

“Our ideas were not accepted,” Betlach interjected. “They were not all implemented …”

“Yes, it was accepted,” Baras interjected. “This whole board went along with it.”

Betlach contended that the October public hearing was the first time that Weis presented any design plans to aldermen and that she and other residents are reacting to plans from that meeting.

Konopka, who is running for mayor in April, and former Ward 1 Alderman Judy DeWitt both said they recall submitting possible ideas to Weis at a past work session but that no design plans were seen until October.

“What we did, supposedly, we sat down and made up a wish list,” Konopka said. “This wish list we gave to the engineer. And then he was supposed to implement this wish list. As far as I was concerned, I never did say I wanted curbs. I never did say I wanted sidewalks. What I said, I believe that Green Park — and this may be entirely wrong — I believe Green Park (Road) could be widened somewhat.

“Some of the hills should be taken out for sight-distance improvement. The side should be a drainage system and a shoulder. A shoulder so that if somebody gets a flat tire, they can pull off. If somebody’s walking along or walking to the park, it gives them a place to walk. There was no place at that time where I ever said anything about curbing or anything like that until I saw it come here. My idea was a drainage system for Green Park Road and a shoulder.”

“I, too, remember talking about a shoulder on Green Park Road,” Dewitt said. “I really don’t remember any of the other details, such as curbs or anything like that. That part, I don’t remember discussing anything like that. But they were all ideas and what we wanted. And the engineer would put it together and come back — like when we had the public hearing a couple months ago. That’s when we found out that’s what the package was.”

Ward 3 Alderman Mark Hayden said he remembers discussing a need for sidewalks near Green Park Road at previous work sessions.

“The sidewalks, we did say that we do need it because the entire 3rd Ward can’t get to the only park in the city,” Hayden said. “And that was the express area that I was concerned about was getting sidewalks from Kohrs (Lane) down to Clydesdale Park.”

“We never really talked about sidewalks on my side,” Betlach responded. “We were very much against sidewalks on the residential side and never, ever was it mentioned that there would be five- or six-foot sidewalks.”