The Prairie Village Planning Commission spent 50 minutes this week discussing the impact of six inches on the first-floor elevation of a proposed new home at 9109 Fontana. Determining the impact of Mission Chateau, the $50 million senior living community that the Tutera Group wants to build on the former Mission Valley Middle School site, will take a lot longer.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
A crowd of several hundred packed Village Presbyterian Church’s Friendship Hall on Tuesday for the first of the two Planning Commission’s scheduled public hearings on the special use permit application and site plan for Mission Chateau at at 8500 Mission Road. As the temperature rose in the room, project opponents fanned themselves with signs handed out by the Mission Valley Neighbors Association that read, “No Massive Development. Mission Valley Site.”
Before the discussion , Planning Commission members heard from city attorney David Waters about whether they were even allowed to hold the hearing. Attorney John Duggan, representing the neighbors association, had submitted a memorandum to the city earlier alleging that the plan to build a skilled nursing facility first could violate the zoning ordinance.
Mission Chateau would consist of the skilled nursing unit, a memory care unit, a row of villas and assisted and independent living facilities to be built in phases. Duggan argued that approving the nursing unit before the assisted and independent living facilities would be like sanctioning a shed to be constructed on a piece of property before the plan for the main house was approved. Waters said he believed that the zoning code allowed for the proposal.
Polsinelli attorney John Petersen and architect Mitch Hoefer then laid out the project parameters of the “country club for seniors,” and discussed how the Tutera Group has addressed neighborhood concerns by shifting building elevations, moving an internal road and developing the green space on the 18-acre property. Petersen implored the Planning Commission to approve the project in order to free up housing stock for younger families and allow elderly residents to remain in the city if a decline in their health forces them to leave their homes.
“There is not only a need. There is a distinct need, a growing need and now is the time to address that need,” Petersen said.
Nearly three hours after the meeting began, 13 members of the public came forward to speak in favor of the project. Residents of the Atriums — a Tutera-run senior facility in Overland Park — former Councilwoman Marcia Jacobs and several current residents spoke about the positive economic and social impacts of the project.
Retired physician Milburn Hobson, who has been in the same house with his wife for 46 years, has signed on to live in a villa if Mission Chateau is built. He was the first of several speakers to note that a majority of the audience were seniors.
“I look around here and see all these silver heads. I think many of them are in the opposition and I can’t understand why,” said Hobson.
A half hour later, Duggan attempted to give Hobson and the Planning Commission the answer to that question.
“This project, in terms of mass, its scale and density is unprecedented in your city,” said Duggan.
He said the Mission Valley Neighbors Association wants more detail on building dimensions and believes the project will dominate the surrounding single-family residences. In addition to the neighborhood footprint, marketing consultant Bob Higney expressed concern over what Mission Chateau says to the surrounding communities.
“This will literally create the perception that Prairie Village is the new home for senior citizens, especially those needing skilled nursing care,” said Higney.
The final speaker of the night was former Councilman Steve Carmen, who lives next to the proposed development. He is concerned about increased traffic, the height of the buildings and his property value.
“I’m opposed to this project because the intensity of activity is incompatible with the neighborhood to which it is going to be stuffed,” said Carmen.
Another meeting is scheduled for June 4.