BY ROB ROBERTS
SUN STAFF WRITER
The race for a two-year City Council term in Overland Park’s newest ward is being characterized as a contest between a pro-development candidate and a pro-neighborhood candidate.
But both Ward 6 candidates, Dan Carbery and Ron Williams, bristle at the suggestion that, if elected, they would not be fair in balancing the interests of all parties who might come before them.
In addition to choosing between Carbery and Williams on April 1, voters in Ward 6 will elect a City Council member to a four year term. Ward 5 incumbent George Kandt, who was shifted into Ward 6 through the redistricting process, is running unopposed for that position.
Like Kandt, a leading opponent of the controversial WalMart Supercenter approved at 159th and Metcalf, Carbery is considered by many south Overland Park homeowners to be on “their side” in the ongoing battle against adverse impacts from development.
Carbery has not received one campaign contribution from the development community, while disclosure forms due Feb. 13 revealed that more than 90 percent of Williams’ contributions had come from developers and their associates.
“When development is the No. 1 issue and you have one of the candidates receiving 90 percent of his contributions from development interests, I think that’s very telling,” Carbery said.
Carbery said a $500 contribution to Williams from the A.G. Spanos Corp., which owns the proposed regional mall site at 135th and Metcalf, creates “an appearance of impropriety,” as do $2500 in contributions to Williams from South Creek office park developer Dean Development Inc. and its associates.
Attorneys with Polsinelli, Shalton and Welte, a firm that frequently represents developers at Overland Park City Hall, were also among development-community contributors who had backed Williams and Ward 5 candidate Dina Fisk with a total of $12,180 as of Feb. 13.
Williams said he wasn’t aware of the percentage of his development community contributions “because I’m not keeping track, frankly....”
“But there isn’t enough money involved in this race to sway my opinion one way or the other,” he said.
Then why take the money? Carbery asked.
“This is not giving to church,” he said. “A corporation is not going to give you a penny if they don’t think they will get something in return. I think it creates a conflict of interest.”
Education: Bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Missouri - Rolla.
Occupation: Civil engineer with Black & Veetch
If that’s true for him, Williams said, it’s also true for Carbery, who has received contributions from several neighborhood organizations and their members.
“He’s received contributions from people who probably will appear before the Overland Park City Council asking to have a piece of property not rezoned,” Williams said. “Bob Phillips has given him money. And some of the people who are members of Mr. Phillips’ Johnson County South Coalition have probably given him money. My understanding is that that is a very narrow-minded, single-issue, isolationist organization that doesn’t want to see the city continue to grow to the south.”
Carbery said “there have been people trying to cast the illusion that I am anti-development, but that’s simply ignorance. I’m a civil engineer. The roads you drive on, the bridges you cross, the buildings you work in, the water you drink -- civil engineers are responsible for all of that.”
In south Overland Park, however, Carbery said, development has gotten out of hand. After projects like neighborhood shopping centers are approved with the blessing of neighbors, he said, developers are able to file revised preliminary plans for the same sites and build more intrusive projects, like big-box stores, without public hearings, City Council review or protest petitions.
In other cases, Carbery said, “the current City Council has been a little too lenient in granting rezoning requests.”
Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas.
Occupation: Principal with Hallier Reed LLC, an employee benefits and financial services firm.
One rezonng that was “almost pushed down our throats,” he said, would have allowed an auto mall on a site near his home that was zoned for offices. In the end, the auto-mall opponents won, Carbery said. “But the point is that it took over 500 residents going down to City Hall until well after midnight.”
Another land-use battle, over a Target approved at 151st Street and Antioch last year, has so far cost residents of the Kingston Lakes subdivision $58,000 to fight, Carbery noted.
Williams said that money would have been better spent on winning concessions, such as additional landscaping and screening, from Target.
“Overland Park is a growing community,” Williams said, “and growing communities have concerns that not all people are willing to accept.
“But I think that, based on my abilities as a quality arbitrator and a quality negotiator, I can achieve positive results for all the parties concerned.”
Ironically, Williams said, it was another of his qualities - integrity - that may have cost him the support of Ward 6 neighborhood groups.
On Jan. 16, Ward 6 resident Jim Riggs advised Williams via email that “I do believe you have the best interest in mind for the city and Ward 6.”
Riggs even offered to contact Carbery to see if he would back out of the race, saving Williams time and money.
“But there was a subsequent conversation where he asked me to promise him that I would vote the way he and his coalitions wanted me to vote, regardless of the issue, Williams said. And I, being a person of integrity, told them flat-out no.”
Subsequently, Riggs emceed a meeting of homes association leaders who, following interviews with the four candidates seeking the two-year term in Ward 6, endorsed Carbery. With that support, Carbery coasted in the primary with 48.28 percent of the votes (408) to 27.8 percent (235) for Williams.
According to Bob Phillips, Williams was judged by neighbors as “someone who more closely represented the views associated with the current establishment and development interests.”
Williams wonders why that’s a bad thing.
“I think the growth in our city has been managed legally and fairly over time,” Williams said. “Some of the people with narrow, anti-growth agendas have forgotten about the Menorah Medical Center we built in this community which was a contentious argument. They’ve forgotten about the Target that was built at 122nd and Metcalf, which was another contentious argument. And over time, both of those projects have turned out to be very favorable projects for the neighborhoods around them and the city as a whole. The property values immediately around those developments have continued to escalate over time.”
According to his opponents, Williams added, “the biggest problem with me is that I’m a member of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce.”
“I don’t believe it is a negative that I have strong ties to the business community,...” Williams said. “And since when did developers become such bad people?... Quite frankly, without these people being willing to take the risks in our community, we’d have a much higher tax rate and not as many jobs.”
While he supports growth and all that it has meant for Overland Park.
Williams says he believes “Mr. Carbery wants to slow down the growth of our community.”
That’s right, Carbery responded.
“Development in the south, specifically Ward 6, has happened too fast and too sporadically,” Carbery said, “and what that does is put a strain on your infrastructure. Our infrastructure in the south has not caught up to development yet, whether it be thoroughfare widening or stormwater management.”
Williams responded that “Dan Carbery wants to build the city infrastructure before the development, and it never has worked that way. If you don’t have the development, then you don’t have the money as a city to pay for the infrastructure.”
Carbery responded that by providing incentives for infill and redevelopment projects in older parts of the city, Overland Park could both slow the pace of construction in the south while preventing decay in the north.
Williams said he would oppose special incentives for older parts of the city as “divisive".
Carbery calls that position “foolish.”
While development and redevelopment are top issues for Carbery, Williams says the most important issue in the race is “the financial situation facing us over the next year or two given the state budget crisis.” His extensive financial background, Williams said, will be helpful in dealing with revenue shortfalls and ensuring Overland Park’s outstanding quality of life continues.
He’s also been more involved in the community, Williams said, and he’s 10 years older.
Despite his youth, Carbery said, “I’ve forgotten more about development than most people will ever know.”
“There’s nobody more qualified to deal with the development issues in Ward 6 than a civil engineer,” he added, “and that’s something this council is lacking.
Carbery said he was being endorsed by the two unuccessful
candidates in the Ward 6 primary--Dan Stock and DeWayne Bridges."
"Willams said he was being endorsed by all members of the
current City Council except Kandt, Jay Lehnertz and Marcia Gilliland.
Former City Manager Don Pipes is also a supporter, Williams said.