Citywide Streets Vacation Ordinance Avoids Mistakes of Westport

Councilman Quinton Lucas has introduced Ordinance No. 170911, which would address several of the main issues around street vacation policies in Kansas City, Missouri. The measure seeks to ensure that any future attempts to vacate streets or public right-of-ways consider existing public infrastructure and the ability of all citizens to easily move around the proposed area.

BikeWalkKC supports the measure for the following reasons:

  • This ordinance identifies who must be involved in the vacation process. The measure explicitly identifies property owners in the proposed area as people whose consent is needed for a vacation application to proceed. Moreover, the proposal details how these same people and several key constituencies (such as neighborhood or civic organizations) within or neighboring the proposed boundaries should be notified of any requests that pertain to a vacation application. This helps to ensure that the public is made aware of any vacation applications that may arise.
  • The ordinance provides specific criteria to ensure that the public will suffer “no unreasonable loss or inconvenience.” The measure would require that with any proposed vacation, the city must determine what current or future public uses may be impeded. The city would also be required to consider whether proposed vacations will disrupt and/or reduce the existing physical connectivity. This helps pedestrians and cyclists continue to enjoy the built environment our city has to offer.
  • It ensures a timely review and decision for applications to vacate a right-of-way. The proposed ordinance shortens the amount of time the bill can spend between the City Plan Commission and the City Council to six months. In addition, applications made under this measure would expire within one year. If a vacation is truly something that is supported by the public because of its benefits, this aspect of the measure strengthens the likelihood of its swift adoption.

Proposals for the vacation of streets throughout Kansas City have emerged more frequently, despite vocal opposition from the public. The most prominent example of such policies has been in Westport. BikeWalkKC remains firmly opposed to such measures, not only because they constitute the giveaway of public space to private interests, but also because there has been little to no evidence presented that such a move will address the issues that those in favor of privatization fear. What has made this struggle even more difficult is that there are no clear guidelines for how the city should approach such a request.

Thanks to the efforts of Councilman Lucas, that could soon change.

The measure has been referred to the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, where it will be considered on Wednesday, January 10. If it is passed there, it will move on to the full City Council.

BikeWalkKC will submit a letter of support for this measure and encourages you to contact your City Council member to approve this measure!

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