Overland Park council delays proposed 446-apartment development after residents protest

·5 min read

The Overland Park City Council decided in a meeting stretching into the early morning Tuesday to delay approval of a development project that would bring nearly 450 new apartments to the city.

The decision came after protest from neighbors who said the proposal goes against city rules regulating building height and parking space and also could pose traffic and safety issues.

City council members voted 9-3 to send the proposed development back to the planning commission, so that officials could work through the concerns with residents and the developer, Ryan Companies.

Ryan Companies plans for the complex to consist of four four-story buildings and one five-story building. The developer’s proposal involves a multi-building apartment complex as well as space for a pond, dog park and commercial uses on the 17.5-acre lot at 135th Street and Antioch Road.

At the earliest, the planning commission will vote on the development plan again in October. The commission previously agreed to the plan unanimously in July.

On Monday night, area residents, who started a Facebook group with over 300 members to protest the development, filled the meeting. They said they believe the development will take away from the character of the neighborhood with high-rise buildings and create unsafe traffic conditions, especially for children who play at the Blue Valley Recreation Sports Complex across the street.

Representatives from the Nottingham Forest South neighborhood and Home Owners Association said area residents have had no say in the proposed development, which they believe is too large and shouldn’t be approved for variances surrounding building height and parking.

The Johnson County Housing Study, which was presented as one of the reasons for the development, found the county needed to provide more affordable housing options to rent-burdened residents.

Residents said the Johnson County study calling for increased housing options in the area, which Ryan Companies and the planning commission used to justify the project, called for medium rather than high-density housing. One representative said residents aren’t against development as a whole, but they want time to meet and work with Ryan Companies or other developers to handle their concerns.

Mark Frisch, director of the Urban Planning + Design program at University of Missouri-Kansas City, said the proposed development is in a good area for a high-density apartment because it’s on two major roads, near public transportation and separated from the nearest single-family neighborhood.

“We’re in a time of a great housing shortage,” he said. “And here’s a developer proposing to build 400 units more in one of the best school districts in the region. I think it’s a very good thing.”

The apartments would likely set rents at currently high market rates, but Frisch said as more apartments are built, demand will lessen and apartments will lower their prices to attract residents.

He also said the development could help improve traffic on public transit since residents in the more than 400 new apartments would be within walking distance from a bus stop.

Traffic studies support apartment development

A traffic analysis from the planning commission, outside traffic consultants hired by the commission and the developer and the Overland Park Police Department found roadways in the area could handle the anticipated traffic increase and were built with that growth in mind, said Jack Messer, the city’s director of planning and development services.

The analysis, which took into account peak traffic hours as well as increases in traffic after ball games at the sports complex, calls for 137th Street to be expanded to include a left-turn and right-turn lane to help with traffic, Messer said. Ryan Companies previously agreed to construct the left-turn lane on 137th Street.

Residents argued that the original traffic analysis didn’t take into account traffic on game days at the sports complex. After the commission released a supplemental report with game day traffic data, residents said officials used numbers from about 16 years prior that wouldn’t be accurate today.

Signs opposing the construction of apartments were placed in a neighborhood near 139th and Hadley streets in Overland Park.
Signs opposing the construction of apartments were placed in a neighborhood near 139th and Hadley streets in Overland Park.

Council member Farris Farasatti, who voted to delay discussion on the proposal, questioned how the apartment complex would affect quality of life for current area residents.

“What is the burning need for me to approve 400 apartments on this parcel that otherwise isn’t going to be the best land use?” he asked.

Other council members also raised concerns about potential flooding from Tomahawk Creek.

Other projects given allowances on height, parking

Brandon Brensing, vice president of real estate development with Ryan Companies, said the development would not take away from the character of the neighborhood, as the site is surrounded by other commercial development and is about 2,000 feet away from the nearest single-family development.

Residents also showed forms that argued the developer should be allowed to break rules on building height and parking because other developments around the area were granted the same allowances.

Council member Scott Hamblin voted against the motion and said the developer should not be granted the proposed variances just because other developments in the area were granted the same.

He said he believes residents and Ryan Companies won’t be able to come to an agreement because the company will continue promoting high-density development to which residents are opposed.

“They said ‘everybody else got it, so so should we,’” he said. “That’s what they said. That was the answer. That’s a really dangerous road to go down.”

Council member Holly Grummert, who also voted for the motion, said the city may have to rethink its requirements for development, since the area has become more dense with time.

“It sounds like what staff is saying is our city has outgrown our deviations,” she said. “What it sounds like is that part of our comprehensive plan needs to be what our deviations are. Perhaps our deviations are from the 1950s, and we need to update them for what our city is now.”