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Proposal wants to privatize Westport sidewalks

Posted at 2:11 PM, Nov 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-03 19:28:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The City Plan Commission will hear a proposal on privatizing Westport next week, but this one has some changes. 

Instead of privatizing the streets, Councilwoman Katheryn Shields is proposing to privatize just the sidewalks. 

The plan is the latest in an effort to make the neighborhood safer.

“I think it’s pretty safe up until a certain hour on the weekends,” said Craig Prentiss, who comes to Westport often.

Late at night is when gun violence has become prevalent.

That’s why Kansas City Councilwoman Katheryn Shields first proposed privatizing portions of Pennsylvania Avenue and Westport Road, and having people searched for firearms before they entered the area.

“That was met with some opposition. I mean it’s a radical stance to talk about giving your streets away,” said Shields.

So Shields has revised the proposal. Instead of the streets, the city would gift the sidewalks to the Westport Community Improvement District.

“People will enter through the sidewalks and there will be checkpoints to see if there’s contraband or firearms that might be coming in,” said Shields.

But not everyone is on board.

“It might not be the right solution, but at least it’s starting the conversation,” said Laura Norris, who owns Ragazza in Westport.

Ragazza is not right in the heart of Westport, and the restaurant is not in the zone that would be privatized, but Norris said she worries the change would impact her business and the feel of the community.

“I think that Westport as a community wants to stay inclusive and we need to make sure we do that and we don’t do anything to prevent that through and sort of privatization,” said Norris.

Norris also said she wonders if privatizing one spot will send its problems into others.

“It’s that fear of if the bad things don’t happen there… will they happen here?” said Norris.

Councilwoman Shields said these kinds concerns are exactly why she added a reversion clause to the ordinance.

“Now if this isn’t working out, the city has to only send the merchant’s association a letter -- 30 days’ notice and we get our streets back,” said Shields.

The plan has the support of the Westport Strategic Partnership, a group that was created to help plan the future of the area. It includes the Westport Regional Business League, Historic Kansas City, and the City Planning and Development Committee.

The revised ordinance will be heard by the City Plan Commission on Tuesday.