Tuesday, Sep. 25 2012 4:31PM
Second Hy-Vee gas set for Langsford
Council debates traffic congestion, question engineering by staff
By Russ Pulley
Lee’s Summit plans a few street improvements on Langsford Road east of Missouri 291, as it allows Hy-Vee to build a convenience store on the site of a former garden center.
Hy-Vee’s proposal drew the City Council into a long and sometimes cross debate at its Sept. 20 meeting, trying to decide how to relieve traffic congestion and who should pay for the improvements.
The council approved Hy-Vee’s request to build a convenience store with four rows of gas pumps at 920 NE Langsford Road. But only after several council members attacked plans for a median on Langsford.
City staff and Hy-Vee had agreed on construction of a median east and west of Ridgeview Drive on Langsford and a right-hand turn lane in front of the gas station. The median would prevent left turns by eastbound traffic into the store but would not extend all the way to Missouri 291. The city is working on an agreement where it would pay for about $195,000 of the improvements which are expected to cost $300,000 to $350,000. Lee’s Summit plans to reimburse Hy-Vee through sales taxes from the convenience store for a five-year period.
The council finally approved that plan, but first dissected it.
Councilmember Derek Holland opposed the plan because it was a “piecemeal” fix for traffic at the busy intersection. He said he used to go to Hobby Lobby before it relocated.
“Trying to get out of that area was like bumper cars,” Holland said.
He also said hoped Hy-Vee would do more to pay for the street improvements.
Holland noted he has a friend who is a Lee’s Summit resident and convenience store owner who was involved construction of a median within the city, on Douglas Street, but in that instance the city required him to set up an improvement district.
“I don’t like treating a Lee’s Summit businessman different from Hy-Vee,” Holland said.
Councilmembers Bob Johnson, Dave Mosby and Allan Gray questioned how much new traffic the gas station would draw and how the median will affect other businesses.
Bob Brown and Chad Morely, owners of the Quick Clean car wash on Langsford, oppose the median plan because it might discourage some customers from coming to their business, especially if Hy-Vee later decided to prevent his customers from driving through its parking lot. Hy-Vee officials said they don’t expect that to be an issue.
Brown compared it to amputating his leg.
“It wouldn’t kill me, I’d survive, but I’d be crippled,” he said.
Mosby said he didn’t think the gas station would cause a lot of new left hand turns by eastbound traffic and questioned if the median is necessary.
“You’ll hardly be able to see it from Missouri 291,” Mosby said.
Most of the customers are expected to be local and taking advantage of discounts available on gas when they buy food at the grocery, said Peter Hosch, of Hy-Vee corporate headquarters. A little more than 40 percent of the transactions at Hy-Vee’s other convenience stores result from shoppers at the adjacent food stores, he said.
Hosch said Hy-Vee doesn’t think the median is necessary from a traffic perspective, but are required because of city codes, so the company shouldn’t bear the construction expense.
“We agree there are global issues,” Hosch said. “I would contend the issue with the corridor is the westbound left turn onto 291.”
Gray asked if the city needed to look at the intersection as an “overall” redevelopment.
City Manager Steve Arbo said the problem at Langsford and Missouri 291 is typical in Lee’s Summit at major intersections where outer roads used to be the main highway.
The outer road, Rice Road, intersects Langsford too close to M-291, Arbo said, and it would be better to swing Rice Road east to a location for the intersection with Langsford.
“It would take a significant amount of funding,” Arbo said.
Johnson proposed eliminating the median west of Ridgeview, noting there’s a small number of accidents right at the car wash, no more than six reported during the last four years out of millions of trips. There were 93 accidents in the busy corridor, according to traffic studies, making it the sixth worse in town, but that includes accidents on Missouri 291.
Councilmember Ed Cockrell defended the plan, saying the city staff had made a satisfactory design necessary for safety. The median will be needed to stop people from pulling across several lanes of traffic to access the gas station, he said.
Cockrell challenged the “pandering” of other council members trying to redesign an agreement already negotiated by experts. Cockrell said he’d never heard as much testimony on a simple development by council members recalling personal experience.
“We have a simple business that wants to come in,” Cockrell said. “God help someone with a complex business that comes before this council.”
Mosby responded that council members were looking out for another business that could be a victim of unintended consequences.
“I don’t consider that pandering, I consider that doing our job,” Mosby said.
Councilmembers Brian Whitley, Kathy Hofmann, Rob Binney and Cockrell voted to keep the entire median, while Johnson, Holland, Gray and Mosby voted against it. Mayor Randy Rhoads broke the tie, so the full median east and west of Ridgeview Drive was left in the agreement with Hy-Vee.
The final vote approving the convenience store was 7-1, Holland voting no. That approval is contingent on the city and Hy-Vee financial agreement for construction expenses and a council vote on that issue.