The Lansing City Council had two different trail measures on its agenda Thursday night.
The first was tabled to allow for further the study, the second approved. But neither passed without comment from council members on the importance of planning and priorities.
The first issue at hand was a proposed supplemental agreement on the DeSoto Road improvement project. According to Lansing Public Works Director John Young, a supplemental agreement for the existing engineering service contract was needed following a May 2011 public input meeting in which three residents in the project area commented that they would like to see the planned portion of a trail between Ida and Holiday streets be moved closer to the nearby creek and away from adjacent homes with a privacy fence on its western side.
However, according to a briefing report accompanying the proposal, moving the trail meant it could no longer be built in an existing sanitary sewer easement with documents prepared for another recent project.
“(The Kansas Department of Transportation) has agreed to the additional estimate cost provided by the consultant,” said Mayor Billy Blackwell.
Blackwell said KDOT also prepared the supplemental agreement, in which the cost for the engineering work on the DeSoto Road project would increase from $528,340 to $568,819. The difference would be paid for mostly with a 2005 federal earmark provided to the city for DeSoto Road, with $8,096 in local matching funds required. The completion of the design of that portion of the trail, Blackwell noted, was the last step before design plans were to be submitted to KDOT.
But some council members wondered if the city should approve the changes now. Councilman Gregg Buehler referenced an Oct. 25 council work session during which a number of residents expressed concern that trails as outlined in the city’s master trails plan would go through their backyards.
“I thought when we talked about this last time that we were going to postpone the decision on that until after we had done the new comprehensive plan and we reworked the trails system,” he said.
Buehler said he had a hard time justifying sidewalks along DeSoto Road in addition to constructing a trail on the other side of the homes that face the roadway. Councilwoman Andi Pawlowski said the owners of the homes in the Maples along DeSoto subdivision knew, because there was an easement in the original plat, that there was to be a sidewalk along the front of their house. For those who would face the trail along the creek as proposed, she said there was no such foreknowledge.
“We can plan and do all this if we want to, but if they say ‘we don’t want that trail in our backyard,’ then we have to go to court and force them to let us put it in their backyard,” she said. “Is that really something we want to do?”
Page 2 of 2 - Young said some of the property that would be needed for the trail is already encumbered in the form of easement, though additional land would be needed.
Blackwell said he did not think that simply abandoning the proposed trail and utilizing the sidewalk along DeSoto Road, even if it tied into the city’s broader trails system, was a good idea either.
“I see trails and sidewalks as different animals,” he said, later adding that he did not think that walking down DeSoto Road would be a “pleasant” experience.
Asked how delaying the decision would affect the DeSoto Road project as a whole, Young said his concern was one of meeting the timeline, especially given that the Mid-America Regional Council had programmed the project in its long-range plan for 2016. There’s a lot of work to be done before then.
“That doesn’t leave a lot of time to acquire right of way in 2014,” Young said, referring to if the decision on the trail was postponed until that portion of the comprehensive plan were discussed.
Still, the council decided to table the proposal.
The council did approve a resolution supporting a grant application for the completion of the Angel Falls Trail. The application, if approved, would allow the city to utilize KDOT grant funds and a program under which the state would “buy” idle federal highway funds set aside for the city, for 90 cents on the dollar, which would allow the city to utilize the funds for a broader range of projects. However, Pawlowski said she felt that same funding could be utilized for other projects the city has already identified, like improvements to Kane and Gamble streets.
“This is not anywhere on our list of priorities,” she said of the trail.
Though the city would not have the remaining funds needed to complete either of those other projects, Blackwell agreed.
“We’re going to try to get better at that,” when the city works on its annual strategic plan in March.