The Roeland Park City Council was ready to give guidance Monday night to city staff on how to handle developers interested in city-owned and private property, but the discussion on how to attract those developers and find the best use for underused city-owned property is far from over.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
“We need to talk about who we are and who we want to be,” said Mayor Joel Marquardt during the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting. “A tough one is going to be looking at people’s perceptions of housing and elderly housing.”
The council has spent the past several months debating the property development process in the wake of an aborted sale of a community center this February. After initially approving a plan for developer David Dean to raze the community center at 4850 Rosewood Avenue and build a senior housing facility in its place, the council reversed course in the face of criticism that the initial decision was reached without public input.
On Monday night, Councilman Marek Gliniecki and City Clerk Debra Mootz presented a pair of flow charts, one each for private and city-owned property, designed to show how the city could handle new proposals and give the public opportunity to weigh in at several stages.
“This is a process for staff to understand the flow so that the public and developers, when they come in here, can understand the steps we have to go through,” said Mootz.
The council’s Redevelopment Committee would be responsible for reviewing proposed developments on private property. The committee would ensure that the plan meets zoning codes and the original intent of a development agreement. If the plan met those requirements, then it would go before the Planning Commission for a public hearing and potential recommendation to the full council.
With city-owned properties, the city’s staff would provide information to developers who express interest in a property.
“We’re talking (about being) proactive versus reactive. Right now we’re in a reactive state. Right now, we’re just taking whoever walks in off the street,” said Mootz.
“It’s not like the city has so many properties,” Mootz said. “I trust the city staff can keep track of an occasional phone call.”
Developers could then submit a formal proposal to be weighed by the Redevelopment Committee. If that proposal aligned with city rules and regulations, it would be forwarded to the council. At this point, the public would have the first opportunity to weigh in on a potential project. The next stage would be a hearing of the Planning Commission, which again is open to the public. The proposal would return to the council for further review before potential negotiations with a developer on a final agreement.
While the council agreed on the framework for processing a property request, a consensus couldn’t be reached on how to solicit requests or generate interest from developers.
Councilman Robert Meyers contended that the city needed to hire someone to serve as the face of redevelopment efforts in order to give the business community a single contact providing consistent information.
“If we hire somebody to do it, then it’s money and then we’re accountable. I think that’s the most important piece because otherwise the council is likely to pick pet projects,” Meyers said.
Marquardt pushed for forming an ad hoc committee or board, noting that he is already meeting informally with residents who have volunteered their services to aid in redevelopment.
Councilwoman Sheri McNeil urged her fellow council members to make development a priority.
“It seems like so many things drag and drag,” McNeil said.
The council agreed to consider holding a workshop at the end of July that would focus on the city’s underutilized properties.
“I’d like to have a direction and plan. For those who want to do it, let’s do it,” said Marquardt.