By C.J. JANOVY
When I called him up this week, Peterson told me that one of the things he’s most proud of was working with three cities – Overland Park, Olathe and Leawood – on an innovative approach to access roads around 135th Street, which allowed for more development of yet another thoroughfare farther south of existing strip-mall streets. (OK, Peterson didn’t put it exactly that way. He’s real proud of his unique approach to access roads.)
The OP’s next big challenge, he said, will be “balancing the needs for development in the south with redevelopment and revitalization in the north.” As sprawl – he calls it development – continues now farther south of 151st Street, he says, “at the same time our northern areas are becoming a little tired. If you haven’t been down Metcalf in 15 years you’ll notice it’s kind of tired, with payday loans, used car lots, car title loan companies, pawn shops.”
Seems like it’s harder to interest people in reviving shabby old parts of town when it’s cheap to chew up more farmland ever farther south for clean, new homes and strip malls. But Peterson said he’s encouraged by young people investing in older ranches and Cape Cod homes in older suburbs like Mission, Prairie Village and Merriam.
Early JoCo settlers, caught here on Metcalf, didn't know the sprawl that was coming. That's Metcalf today, below.
Finally I just asked him, point blank, what he thought about sprawl.
“That depends on the person. In my view, Overland Park is not sprawl as compared to the exurban development in outer parts of county, where you have one house on five acres -- now that’s sprawl. So I don’t see the development that occurs in Overland Park or most Johnson County communities as sprawl. I see it as a reasonable approach to accommodating development that the market wants to occur.”
Is anyone talking about sprawl as a problem?
“It’s not on anybody’s radar screen. I don’t know. I don’t know if we should or not. I don’t think it can happen until somebody gets enough people together to try to make it happen.” The metro’s spreading north, south, east and west, he noted. “I don’t think any one city is going to step forward and do it [question sprawl] on its own. It would take a huge political sea change in order to have a place like Overland Park or Leawood or Olathe say, ‘We’re going to put this line around the city and we’re not going to get any bigger.”
Would Peterson say it’s time to start thinking about it?
“I’m not the one to ask.”
Seemed to me he was the perfect one to ask, but Peterson was having none of it. “I just don’t want to get into that. I’m calling it a career. I’ve done everything I can do.”
He’ll be turning his stained-glass hobby into a business and working in his vegetable garden, while the metro just keeps paving more prairies.