By Leilani Haywood
Tribune Reporter

Adding parking in downtown Lee’s Summit and improving Colbern Road are priorities for the Public Works department. Dena E. Mezger, director of Public Works, gave a presentation to the city council’s Public Works Committee about her meeting with different stake holders in the community in support of the 2018 Capital Improvement Sales Tax. Mayor Pro Tem Rob Binney chaired the committee meeting with council members Craig Faith, Fred DeMoro and Diane Seif in attendance.

The council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance at its March 15 meeting reauthorizing one half of one percent capital improvement sales tax. Mezger and her team met with Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council and downtown business groups to create the list of capital improvement projects. Mezger said during the presentation that the downtown groups recommended accelerating the downtown parking structure as the most important need and improving Colbern Rd. between Douglas and Unity Village’s entrance as the highest priority for economic development.

Donnie Rodgers Jr., executive director of the DLSMS association, read from a letter emphasizing support for additional parking. Rogers referenced the Downtown Master Plan Task force formed in 2015 to review the 2004 Old Lee’s Summit Master Development Plan and other studies, such as the 2006 Parking Study.
“The top five priorities included an expanded downtown and refined zoning, parking, permanent farmers market facility, housing and density, and better traffic corridors into downtown,” Rogers said.

“Downtown has rebounded from the recession adding 71 net new businesses and 517 net new jobs since 2009,” Rogers said. “Taxable sales have grown from an estimated $16 million in 2008 to over $36 million in 2017. Much of this growth can be tied back to the commitment of the city to reinvest in the core of our community including the completion of the Vision of the Heart streetscape in 2007. With this new growth downtown, parking is becoming harder and harder for downtown patrons and employees.”

Mezger told the committee, “If we don’t do the parking garage and acquire the property, we could do a surface paving lot that would get us 40 or maybe 50 more spaces of surface parking that would serve us on an interim basis. That’s one option. The option also is to put that parking garage in that first five years and potentially move back some other project.”

The estimated cost for a parking garage would be $5 million to $10 million.

“As far as the Economic Development Group, their highest priority is the Colbern road improvement which is between Douglas and basically Unity Village where it stops in front of Unity’s entrance,” Mezger said.

The LSEDC also recommended splitting Scherer Road into two phases and moving up the construction phase from Ward to Highway 291. Public Work’s current proposed plan has Scherer Road in the six to 10 years for phase 1 and 10 to 15 years for phase 2.

The proposed CIP projects fall within three groups: one to five years; six to 10 years and 10 to 15 years depending on cash flow. The projects slated to be done within the next one to five years include: Colbern Road design, land acquisition for downtown parking, stormwater projects, Pryor Road design, Jefferson St. west to Highway 50 and trail head improvements. Curb replacement and sidewalk gaps were considered ongoing with flexibility to move within the list.

“In that first five year period we kind of try to roughly balance it financially where the cost of the program’s or project’s 5-year period would be covered by the revenue of that 5-year period,” said Mezger. “The Colbern road design is still there. And we have land acquisition for the parking garage.”

Councilmember Faith asked why the downtown parking garage wasn’t being fully utilized. “There’s been the city hall parking lot, that is open 24/7 publicly. I’ve been down here quite a lot during big huge events where the streets are packed and that garage is still not full. How do we reconcile that with adding more to the downtown area when there is a beautiful structure here with an elevator?”

Mezger responded that residents may not realize that the garage is for public parking. “I know that the downtown groups have been looking at a signage package that would point people over there.” The garage has 300 spaces.

City Traffic Engineer Michael Parker said two sites were being considered for a parking structure.

“There are a couple priority sitings that have been discussed going back really to 2001 when we kicked off long term visioning of downtown for what we wanted downtown to develop and what kind of parking demand required to support that long-term vision,” he said. “We obviously have one of the structures here next to city hall. There were two other locations, one was on the west side of the tracks near the old post office, the other is on the east side of the tracks hear 4th and East Main.”

The next step for the Public Works Committee presentation was for the priorities to be reviewed and supported by the City’s Finance and Budget Committee for inclusion in the City’s 2018 Capital Improvement budget.