The comprehensive K-15 Area Plan moved along as it was approved by the Derby Planning Commission at its Dec. 6 meeting. It now goes on to the City Council for its consideration. More than a year in the works, the plan is a positive step, said Mitch Adams, the commission’s chairman.
“I think it’s a great blueprint going forward,” he said.
Adams was part of the plan’s steering committee, so he got to participate in a lot of the research, but he also was quick to credit the public input into the project, including the various landowners in the area.
With a renewed K-15, they could benefit, he said, either through being able to better develop their property or selling it.
Furthermore, the city as a whole will gain by having the north K-15 corridor undergo a renovation, he said.
The city’s northwest entrance is at K-15 and Patriot and the first view southbound motorists have of Derby is not especially favorable, he said.
“It does look dilapidated, especially compared to Rock Road,” Adams said.
It will take time, Adams said, but hopefully in the future, the city could have a new “front door” that looks attractive.
City engineer Dan Squires, who presented the study to the commission, said the plan is about taking action.
“My manager doesn’t like us putting studies on the shelf,” he said. “These are for concrete steps.”
The intent is to incorporate the concepts into the city’s comprehensive plan as part of its update in 2019.
The plan encompasses an area bounded by K-15 to the west, Patriot Avenue to the north, Buckner Street to the east and Meadowlark Blvd. on the south.
Much of the planning area is developed commercial property with a mix of residential and undeveloped tracts of land.
Dave Church, a senior traffic engineer with WSP, which was part of the study’s team, said an important part of it is the way it calls for a new traffic signal about halfway between Patriot and Meadowlark, opening up access to the center part of the area.
“It is a bit challenging to get through the area the way it currently exists,” Church said.
With the possibility of such a light at the location, the city earlier this year bought property there that was up for auction.
As planned, the traffic would come off of K-15 and be funneled through a roundabout.
Church said the roundabout is an effective feature.
“It’s kind of like a four-way yield,” he said.
There would be a new north-south road east of the current Nelson Drive, providing access to the back side of the deep lots.
At the northeast side of the planned area, officials have left room for the possibility of a Menards store. While the company owns that land, they have given no indication of when they will build a store there, if at all.
Planners also have designed a green space entranceway at the area’s northwest corner where the now-closed Fuel Outlet is. That’s just a thought, they add, as the property is now with a private owner.
Most of the commercial land was developed prior to being annexed into the city and therefore was not subject to the city’s development regulations.
That resulted in “a disjointed pattern of development with no overall thought for circulation,” said City Planner Justin Givens.
He agreed with Squires that the area has challenges.
“As currently developed, the area provides a less than desirable entryway to the city and is not utilized to its highest and best use,” he said.
Givens also said the two main entities that need to be involved now are Walmart and the Kansas Department of Transportation.
KDOT approval is required before the proposed new access to K-15 will be allowed, he said.
Also, Walmart has indicated their approval of the plan at a “conceptual level,” he said, but there could be impact on the store’s parking.
Givens said there’s more to do in working out an agreement between planners and the retailer.
“Walmart was clear that their conceptual approval should not be viewed as them agreeing to donate or sell Walmart property,” he said.
Like others involved, Givens said he was pleased with the work so far.
“The plan provides an excellent framework for redevelopment of the area and reflects the goals and desires of the city, the land and business owners and area residents,” he said.
RDG Planning and Design served as the primary consultant and facilitator of the plan with technical assistance from WSP. Professional engineering services related to traffic analysis and modeling were provided by WSP.