About 60 Blue Springs residents spent six hours this week with city development officials, helping set priorities for the city’s future. The groups attended three public engagement meetings organized and led by members of the Development Department and designed to give citizens a voice in prioritizing improvements in several areas, from infrastructure to traffic and safety.

Director of Community Development Scott Allen, who led the meetings, said officials gained insight from those who live within the two designated areas, both of which are east of Missouri 7. A Tuesday afternoon session was attended by City Council members and a school district official while the evening session focused on residential areas north of Missouri AA and a Thursday evening forum targeted the area south of Missouri AA. In an interview after the meeting, Allen explained that points west of Missouri 7 were discussed in 2013 and 2014 neighborhood meetings.

Development officials will use the input to create specific area plans in the designated areas, which will then become concepts and illustrations and, eventually, will become part of the Comprehensive Plan, which contains specific guidelines for future city improvements.

Allen said he was pleased with attendance and input at the public discussions. Attendees at each meeting set the tone, with Tuesday night’s meeting focusing on specific issues, including residents’ wishes to walk to Burr Oak Woods and Pink Hill Park and concerns about the ability of a neighbor with disabilities to traverse the area without adequate sidewalks. The city recently won a grant to install sidewalks along Missouri 7, which will allow residents to more readily walk to the local spots. They are scheduled for placement in 2020. “The city is making efforts to improve sidewalks, but, it’s incremental,” Scott said after the meeting.

While only about 15 people attended that meeting, Allen said the smaller attendance allowed for more specific discussions. “Sometimes, in a smaller crowd, it’s a lot more personal and intimate,” he said.

At Thursday’s gathering, Rachel Boehm complained that students leaving Blue Springs South High School frequently exceed the speed limit when entering her neighborhood near Taylor Road. She said student drivers sometimes honk at bus drivers because they want to pass the buses, whose drivers are traveling at the designated speed limit. “I think it’s going to take a death before somebody does something,” she said. Public Works Director Chris Sandie said he would follow up with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department to request more patrols in the area.

The next series of public meetings, which Allen described as “a kind of show and tell,” will be held in September or October and will consist of “dot exercises” in which residential attendees will prioritize specific plans that grew out of this week’s forums. Attendees will place different colored dots on large poster-sized lists and maps of issues proposed at the public meetings, he said. The public can be informed of these meetings by checking the district’s website under public meetings.

Area restaurants and businesses also were a topic of conversation at the Thursday meeting. Angie Wickham said she and her family are tired of driving outside of Blue Springs to find a variety of restaurants. “If you go to Lee’s Summit, they have everything,” she said. District 3 Council Member Susan Culpepper said city leaders are working to bring more businesses into Blue Springs. She suggested that attendees participate in Downtown Alive, “a very active group” that works to develop the city’s downtown area. “To my way of thinking, downtown is the heart of your city,” she said. In an interview after the meeting, Scott said specific plans for downtown development were outlined in a separate document created in 2007.

Residents mentioned the construction taking place at the former White Oak Plaza, which has been re-named White Oak Marketplace. Allen said the Price Chopper South, currently located east of Missouri 7, soon will move into a new building at the marketplace mall. He said a new tenant for the older Price Chopper building has been located, but he was not at liberty to name them because the lease “has not yet been finalized.” In addition, Allen addressed the former Gordman’s in the Adams Dairy Landing shopping district, which recently closed. He told the crowd not to “get too panicky” when they discover that “Spirit Halloween” will occupy the former Gordman’s building, adding that he’d spoken with RED Development officials, who built and lease the shopping district. He learned that, eventually, a more permanent tenant will occupy the space. He said, “It (the Halloween store) won’t be there forever.”