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Plan to privatize Westport sidewalks on hold

Posted at 4:23 PM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 19:18:01-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A plan to vacate Westport sidewalks was held in committee Wednesday after council members and citizens raised concerns about the ordinance. 

In the spring of 2017, Councilwoman Katheryn Shields first proposed privatizing portions of Pennsylvania and Westport Road to search patrons for weapons before they enter the busy stretch of bars and restaurants. When that proposal was met with resistance, Shields brought forth an ordinance that would instead privatize only the sidewalks

The ordinance, which was held after Councilman Quinton Lucas and Councilman Lee Barnes raised concerns, would also give the city the opportunity to take back the sidewalks. However, the Westport Regional Business League can charge the city up to roughly $130,000 if the deal is canceled.

During Wednesday's Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee meeting, more than a dozen citizens stood up to speak for and against the ordinance.

"Westport is under siege," Franklin Kimbrough of the Westport Regional Business League told the committee. 

The WRBL, the Heart of Westport Neighborhood Association and several businesses spoke in support of the sidewalk vacation. The Kansas City Police Department also urged the committee to pass the ordinance, but members of BikeWalkKC were vocal with their opposition.

"This proposal is not what people of this city need or deserve," Michael Kelly, a member of the group, said.

Kelly and other opponents lamented the fact that other options, like closing bars earlier, have not been exhausted. 

Clinton Adams, a prominent Kansas City attorney, said the ordinance would "trample people's rights" to protect Westport businesses. Both Lucas and Barnes also raised concerns about civil liberty issues. 

The ordinance will be discussed again at the next Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee meeting, which is on Nov. 29.