County considers road fee options
Sue Ryan said something needs to be done about dust from traffic on the county's gravel roads.
When her house on Dempsey Road was built 22 years ago, there were two houses along the one-mile stretch between 147th Street and 155th Street.
Now there are 17 houses. And a nearby housing development has added more traffic to the road.
"We were tired of the dust," Ryan said. "We decided we were going to build a house out in the middle of the 80 acres, and then planning and zoning said you're probably going to have to pay $14,000 for a road improvement fee, but you may never see a road."
Ryan and about 60 other area residents on Monday afternoon attended the county commission's second forum to discuss a proposed increase in the county's road improvement fee.
In January, the county's transportation committee made a recommendation to increase the road improvement fee from $2,500 to $14,000. Currently, the fee is paid when a building permit is obtained. The county's planning committee approved the proposal, and now it's up to the county commissioners to decide whether it will fly.
Meanwhile, the proposal has been hotly contested by developers, as well as by individuals who plan to build new homes but see the $14,000 fee as excessive.
"I wanted to build a house out in the middle of our 80 so I wouldn't have to eat dust on my barbecue," Ryan said, noting the proposed RIF increase. "It's not going to be fair to my kids who might want to build on the family farm someday, too."
From dust to dust
Both of the issues Ryan addressed -- dust from gravel roads and the proposed increase in the RIF -- are concerns of the county commissioners. And, they are related.
During Monday's meeting Bill Nowlan, another rural resident, asked what was the rationale behind wanting hard surface roads.
"Are people dying because our roads are unsafe," Nowlan asked the commissioners. "Are we having tragedies -- maybe it's there but I haven't heard about it."
County commission chairman Don Navinsky said in his eight years on the commission, he's heard constant complaints about gravel roads.
"As long as somebody else is paying for it I want my road hard surfaced in front of our house, I want you to keep the snow and ice off it every day of the week and I want to get rid of the dust," Navinsky said.
Generally, Navinsky added, it's not the folks who have lived in the county for years from whom he hears these complaints.
"It's the development that's come out," Navinsky said. "They come out and see this beautiful quaint road with the trees, that's beautiful we want to stay here for the rest of our lives -- and then they start complaining."
Nowlan responded to Navinsky's observation, asking incredulously: "Are you saying that the big problem is dust? You're asking for millions of dollars to spend here so that we don't have dust?"
Commissioner Joe Daniels Jr. noted he'd had a complaint from a woman who built a house in the country and now, because of the poor condition of the gravel road, is embarrassed to invite friends from Kansas City to her home.
"I said that's a choice you made when you moved out here," Daniels said.
Commissioner Bob Adams was unable to attend Monday's meeting.
Who's going to pay
Navinsky said the commission has worked hard on this issue.
"We have not looked at this lightly," Navinsky said. "There have been hours that each one of us have put in."
Navinsky, who lives in a rural area of the county, said he thought the RIF should be used to pay for road improvements where the new homes are located. He noted that 80 percent of his constituents live in the city.
"It would be nice for me if they'd pay for a blacktop road in front of my house," Navinsky said. "... But at the same time, I don't want to pay for all the subdivisions in Basehor."
Although rumors have circulated about the possibility letting the public vote to establish a mill levy for road improvements, both Navinsky and Daniels said that's not likely.
During a telephone interview Tuesday, Navinsky said he believed this was a matter of policy.
"I think the commission plans to make a decision," he said. "We were just collecting data and getting information on this and trying to comprehend all the situations."
The commission's objective now, Navinsky said, is to come up with a proposal that everyone can live with.
It's likely, Navinsky said, that when there are developments with more than eight lots, the developer will have the option of paying a RIF or improving the gravel road to the nearest hard-surfaced road.
But he said he was uncertain how much individuals who want to build a home in the country would be charged.
It's likely, he said, that the commission would try to compromise by grandfathering in all lots in the county that are currently buildable. Buildable ground, Navinsky said, is land that has been platted, or that has undergone a lot split. The lots grandfathered in would pay a road improvement fee when building permits are obtained. But the fee would be much less than the proposed $14,000 RIF.
"If you bought five acres and it's now buildable, if you build in 15 years, you should still be able to go out there and not pay the $14,000," Daniels said during Monday's meeting.
But would that take care of the problem?
Navinsky said it would help.
"It sure handles the situation that our people know what they're getting into," Navinsky said.
Daniels also said it's unlikely the road issue would go to a public vote.
"What I'm thinking is we've gone through the process, now the board will decide what they are going to do," Daniels said.