After months of informal meetings with neighbors to discuss the potential redevelopment of the former Mission Valley Middle School into a senior housing complex, the Tutera Group held the first official public meeting Thursday night in the cafeteria of Prairie Elementary School.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
“We’re trying to get to the point where the desires and goals of the landowners, the desires and goals of the neighbors, and desires and goals of the community at large reach an equilibrium,” said project spokesman John Petersen.
The comments from the crowd of 40 residents that gathered for the citizen participation policy meeting suggests that balance has not yet been achieved. The Tutera Group submitted a special use permit application and site plan to the Planning Commission earlier this month. The meeting Thursday was the first step mandated by the Planning Commission and will be followed by two public hearings about Mission Chateau, the $50 million proposed development at 8500 Mission Road that includes a skilled nursing unit, a memory care unit, independent and assisted living facilities and a cluster of villas.
“We feel really excited,” said Joe Tutera. “I think we have a great plan that addresses all the key concerns of the neighborhood.”
In the first portion of the 90-minute meeting, Petersen, a development attorney with Polsinelli, outlined the site plan for Mission Chateau and explained how that plan has changed as a result of meetings with residents who live near the middle school site. The senior community consists of 387,244 square feet of buildings on almost 18 acres of land. While the villas, rehab center and apartment units have a max capacity of 450 people, Petersen estimated that about 360 people, attended to by a staff of 85 people, will live in the community.
In response to concerns over traffic and the view from adjacent properties, the Tutera Group has adjusted the location of parking spots and reconfigured the driveway system to move traffic noise away from the neighbors along the property line. The development group also expects to build 1.23 miles of walking trails on the grounds to help integrate the senior community within the surrounding neighborhood.
“Many think developers hold meetings and then continue to do what they would do from the outset,” said Petersen. “I think the record shows that Mr. Tutera and the development team have tried to be responsive.”
As part of his presentation, Peterson broke down the results of traffic and stormwater studies on the property. Based on estimates for when the school was in operation, the traffic study revealed that the senior living community is expected to generate 169 fewer car trips during the morning rush hour and 22 more trips in the evening. As a result of slight regrading and the installation of an internal stormwater system, the Tutera Group expects to be able to reduce the stormwater runoff from 151 cubic feet per second to 73 cubic feet per second.
When Petersen opened the floor to the public, several Prairie Village residents, including Brenda Satterlee, who formed the Mission Valley Neighbors Association to oppose the redevelopment project, expressed frustration with the process to date.
“It’s clear to me that you don’t care or want to work with the neighborhood,” said Satterlee. “I’m supposed to be excited about five acres of usable green space. My lot is three acres. That doesn’t excite me.”
Residents also wondered about potential ambulance noise, trees being cut down and the amount of people coming and going from the development.
“It’s hard for me to fathom that you could have 380-some patients and 80-some staff that qualifies to come under residential zoning,” said Prairie Village resident Tom Johnston, who attended the meeting with his wife, Rhetta. “I think the system is flawed here. There’s no way this could be called residential and I think that’s the concern of a lot of people here.”
“You use the term patient and we use the term resident,” replied Petersen.
“Maybe I’m the one that is patient, having to go through this process,” said Johnston.
“We appreciate your patience,” said Petersen.