Developers presented a scaled-back version of the Mission Chateau senior living center to Prairie Village neighbors last week. But most in the crowd of about 85 who met weren’t having it.
By ROXIE HAMMILL
Special to The Star
“Are you trying to just wear us down?” Charles Schollenberger asked, mentioning the eight meetings the neighbors have had on the subject. “Is there no end to this? Don’t you understand your plan is not acceptable?” Schollenberger of Prairie Village said to enthusiastic applause.
Residents met with developer Joe Tutera to discuss the latest revisions in what has become a lengthy quest to build a retirement center on the grounds of the former Mission Valley Middle School at 8500 Mission Road. The school was closed in 2011 and sold by the Shawnee Mission School District.
Plans for the site have been a source of controversy ever since. A proposal to spend city money for focus groups on the question became a campaign issue two years ago. Some residents had hopes that Kansas City Christian School, which had expressed interest in the property, would relocate there.
That came up briefly at the latest meeting as well. “I’m not here to wear anybody out but to just get through the process,” Tutera said. “It isn’t going to be a school.”
The site could potentially become rental housing, he said. “But this is a better plan. Your property values will be improved.”
Tutera spent about 40 minutes going over the fine details of a site plan that he says has been cut back about as far as it can be. The 18.4-acre site is designed to have a variety of living space, including rehabilitation facilities, assisted living, care for patients with memory loss and some independent living “villas.”
Previously, Tutera said, the plan was for 351 total units, but that has been reduced to 327. The density also was decreased, from 30 percent of lot coverage to 22 percent; green space was added by reorienting some of the villas, and a 300-foot transition zone was added to the south side. Architects also reduced the heights of the tallest buildings and lengthened setbacks, he said.
But residents at the meeting expressed skepticism and some outrage on a variety of issues. The size of the proposed center was a central issue, with some saying the reductions in scale were not enough to make much difference.
Whit Neykerr Jr. of Prairie Village said the “villas” Tutera mentioned were duplexes by any other name. “You don’t have to worry about duplexes next to your house in Mission Hills. Mission Hills wouldn’t allow it,” he said to Tutera. “Duplexes right next to large-lot single family homes is wrong. It’s bad planning and all you’re going to do is hurt everybody around there.”
Debbie Jones, who lives in Leawood but across the street to the east from the site, also expressed frustration with Tutera’s presentation.
“I feel like you’re just throwing numbers at us and they don’t mean anything,” she said. “You reduced a section from two-story to one-story. So what? I don’t think that makes any difference whatsoever,” she said. “Why so big?”
Tutera said the retirement center needs to have a big enough population to support groups and activities that will attract seniors. “You need enough residents to make a lifestyle,” he said. “If you have an activity and two people show up on the bus, that’s not much of an activity.”
Brenda Satterlee of Prairie Village countered that Mission Chateau as proposed would be one of the top three biggest senior living facilities in Johnson County. Other residents said smaller retirement homes exist and are able to provide lifestyle activities.
Residents also grilled Tutera about parking, water runoff and the proposed two years of construction in their neighborhood.
Some also said they didn’t believe their objections were being noted by the city, asking a city staffer present and taking notes to pledge that he would represent their views to the planning commission.
“I think it’s the planning board we’ve got to get at,” said Harold Marine. “I’m a senior citizen, but I don’t want them (the development) in my back yard.”