MERRIAM, Kan. — A plan meant to move downtown Merriam forward is driving business owners to start a petition against the proposal.  

The city of Merriam wants to revitalize its downtown. 

Nearby business owners commend the effort, but they don’t agree with everything in the plan, like narrowing Merriam Drive from Johnson Drive to the farmers market from three lanes to two. 

Several business owners near Merriam and Johnson drives believe narrowing the street right outside their doors is a bad idea. 

“It will be detrimental to all of our businesses around here,” Guitar Lamp owner Dan Leap said. 

He said there’s a petition full of signatures to prove their point. 

The owners of KC Strings, True Auto and several other businesses have signed the petition and agreed: The center turn lane along Merriam needs to stay. 

“Especially right by the farmers market, across from it. There’s a car dealer that has a truck that brings cars and parks in the middle land and unloads it,” Leap said. “So we need the middle lane for that, too.”

Come rush hour, Leap said keeping left and right turn lanes at the intersection of Merriam Drive and Johnson Drive is imperative for traffic flow. 

“That’s because we don’t want traffic backed up all the way back there,” Leap said. 

Taran Bulmer said that’s already a problem now. 

She’s a hair stylist at Studio L across the street. They’re also not in favor of cutting down lanes in the area. 

“I think it’s going to backfire horribly,” Bulmer said, “because this road, even though it may not seem busy at times, is extremely busy.”

Bulmer said their main struggle right now is parking. 

The city’s plan appears to try and improve that area with some new parking spaces, using the lane that would get taken away. 

Leap said Merriam can learn from its neighbors to the west. 

Shawnee launched a pilot project narrowing roads, near Nieman Road and Johnson Drive. But after complaints from residents and businesses, plus staff research, the Shawnee City Council returned the roads to their original layout

“It’s pretty much the same as what we have going on Johnson Drive over there at Nieman in Shawnee,” Leap said. “So we just don’t want Merriam to make the same mistake.”

On its website, the city says construction on the downtown project is expected to start in spring 2023.

Leap said a councilmember told him a part of the project is still in discussion, however, it’s not listed in the agenda posted online for the next city council meeting on January 9

The city declined to talk with FOX4 on camera Thursday, but Ward 2 Councilwoman Whitney Yadrich did respond to questions and provided this response:

“I take this feedback seriously, and I always listen to the concerns of the business owners I represent. Downtown development and revitalization is a top priority for our citizens, according to our most recently community survey, and I’ve heard some of these same business owners say they want more parking and foot traffic opportunities, which this plan provides,” Yadrich said.

“The proposed street redesign is the result of a multi-year process that weighed heavily on public input and is supported by data from traffic engineers and design professionals.  Our project partners assured us that even with these updates, downtown businesses can continue to operate as they do now.”