BY ROB ROBERTS
SUN STAFF WRITER
The primary election being held to narrow the field of candidates seeking a two year term in south Overland Park's newly created Ward 6 won't take place until next Tuesday. But leaders of six neighborhoods in the politically active ward have already made their choice.
Following a recent candidate forum attended by more than 30 neighborhood representatives, many of whom have become acquainted through zoning fights with City Hall, the group decided to unify behind a single candidate - Dan Carbery.
That endorsement has led one of the other four candidates in the race - DeWayne Bridges - to throw his support to Carbery, who is a civil engineer with Black & Veatch.
Other candidates in the race include Ron Williams, the principal in an employee benefits firm, and Dan Stock, a retired sales manager for Microsoft.
According to Michaela Brady, an activist who has opposed auto malls, a Wal-Mart Supercenter and other big-box stores in south Overland Park, she and Stock both live in Nottingham Forest South, which declined to endorse Carbery "out of deference to our neighbor."
But while Brady said she was "pleased (Stock) stepped up" to run for the new seat she joined with representatives of the neighborhoods backing Carbery in declaring him to be the best-suited candidate.
Besides being endorsed by leaders of six Ward 6 neighborhoods, Carbery won the support of the Blue Valley Riding subdivision, which is located just outside the ward boundary in an unincorporated portion of Johnson County.
Blue Valley Riding was represented at the forum by Bob and Shirley Phillips, leaders of the Johnson County South Coalition, a well-organized neighborhood coalition that has led recent fights against big-box stores and other controversial developments in south Overland Park.
"Before and after the vote, everyone agreed that the most effective way for residents to get representation on the City Council would be to unite behind a single candidate," Bob Phillips said. "Dan Carbery is that candidate. There was very strong sentiment, even by most of those who voted for one of the other candidates, that DeWayne probably best understood what it was like to deal with the Overland Park city government from a neighborhood perspective...
"However, it was felt that Dan Carbery would make a more effective City Council member and was more electable. ... He focused on the fact that he would understand the engineering studies being submitted by developers. The flawed studies and Overland Park's unwillingness to recognize the flaws is a sore point with virtually every neighborhood which has fought inappropriate development before the Overland Park governing body."
Brady said Carbery shared the view that the city approved too many developments with "backended" stipulations regarding stormwater, drainage and other issues.
"Those issues need to be on the table before the project is approved," she said.
Bridges, a partner with J.P. Mann Construction of Missin, generally is of a like mind with them on development issues, Brady and Phillips, said. But Bridges, who has led the fight
against a Target Store at 151st Street and Antioch, might be more effective in his current role as president of the Kingston Lakes subdivision, they said.
There was strong support for Bridges during the candidate forum, Phillips said. "But in the end, neighbors decided they needed to back a single candidate," he said.
Thus the board of Kingston Lakes joined leaders from Blue Valley Riding, Southern Oaks, Oxford Pointe, Switzer Lake, Brittany Park and Regency by the Lake in backing Carbery.
Phillips said Stock lost considerable support of the neighbors when he "expressed his opinion that box stores were inevitable" and that "the Overland Park City Council had its hands legally tied in trying to do anything about it."
"Most of the audience," Phillips said, "was fully aware that judicial decisions say that local governments have wide latitude in making their decisions so long as certain basic criteria are met."
That being the case, Brady added, she has grown tired of hearing the argument that the city must approve a controversial development for fear of losing in court if it doesn't.
Phillips said Williams sidestepped the box-store question, saying that there would not be many more such stores because the City Council did not want to deal with the controversy.
"There was serious doubt within the audience that this was correct," Phillips said. Williams "was perceived as someone who more closely represented the views associated with the current establishment and development interests."
Williams was, however, the most articulate speaker among the candidates, he said.
Voters in Ward 6, which includes property annexed by the city last year, will determine who its elective city leaders will be in April. In addition to electing one candidate to a two year term, Ward 6 voters will elect one City Council member to a four-year term. Current Ward 5 incumbent George Kandt, who was shifted into Ward 6 through the redistricting process is running unopposed for that position.