Prairie Village had a vision test Tuesday night.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
After a lengthy public hearing at Village Presbyterian Church, the city’s Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve the special use permit for the Mission Chateau project over vocal opposition from about 200 residents on hand. The proposal for the senior living community on the site of the former Mission Valley Middle School at 8500 Mission Road — the commission approved the site plan in a separate vote — is expected to go before the City Council on Sept. 3.
“We’ve worked hard for many, many months to find the balance between the needs of the seniors and meet the concerns of the neighbors,” said developer Joe Tutera. “I’m gratified that the Planning Commission overwhelmingly recognized that we have struck that balance.”
Tutera is looking to build the 358,040 square foot project over three phrases and three years. A skilled nursing unit and memory care center would be completed first, followed by the main building to house assisted and independent living facilities. The final portion would be 17 duplexes known as “villas.” The latest site plan, revised at a July 2 work session with the Planning Commission, allows for a total of 327 units with 350 parking spaces.
The Planning Commission recommended that the City Council approve the special use permit application if 14 conditions are met. Commissioner Nancy Wallerstein hoped the requirements would help assuage neighborhood concerns that the project wouldn’t be completely developed or that it could turn into rental housing.
Under the stipulations suggested by the city staff, the skilled nursing and memory center can’t open until the exterior and roof of the independent and assisted living facility — the largest building on the property — are completed. The other key conditions were limiting the development to residents 55 or older, capping the number of residents at 412 and restricting the building sizes to the most recent site plan.
“When you start looking at the master plan, you see there are limited opportunities for development in Prairie Village,” Commissioner Bob Lindeblad said before casting a vote in favor of the project. “We’re going to be more urban. We’re going to have more density.”
The scale of the development has been the issue since MVS LLC, an entity controlled by the Tutera Group, purchased the former school site from Prairie Village for $4.3 million in 2011. Opponents, led by the Mission Valley Neighbors Association, has steadfastly argued that the project is too dense for the 18.4-acre site.
“This type of development has no place in our township,” said Prairie Village resident Mary English. “This is a huge hospital in the middle of a green space next to a single family neighborhood with quiet streets. Our town is called Prairie Village not Prairie City for a reason.”
Attorney John Duggan, the representative for the MVNA, suggested that the project can’t be reconciled with the city’s Village Vision Strategic Investment Plan, a master plan governing future development adopted in 2007. Duggan maintained that the development would dwarf the surrounding neighborhood, has inadequate parking and fails to preserve enough green space. He suggested the city look to Benton House, a senior living community in Prairie Village that opened in January, for guidance. That resonated with Commissioner Gregory Wolf, who cast the lone vote against approving the permit application.
“I’m not comfortable with the size. I’m just not comfortable with the opposition that I’m hearing,” said Wolf.
After close to three hours, the public hearing was closed and the commission began discussing the permit application. Ron Williamson, the city’s planning consultant, explained that the application met all of the criteria for approval. And at 11:30 p.m., that approval was granted.
“I don’t like it, but I think you can say it’s reasonable,” said Chairman Ken Vaughn.
After regularly applauding residents who spoke against Mission Chateau, the crowd in the church’s Fellowship Hall were mostly silent during the vote. A lone woman’s voice cried out, “This is a sham,” as the commissioners raised their hands.
Before the Sept. 3 council meeting, project opponents could file a petition that would require the special use permit to be approved by three-fourths of the City Council rather than a simple majority. The council passed an ordinance in January creating the petition process, which requires signature from 20 percent of the surrounding neighbors.
“It’s never been my objective to have a win-lose situation,” said Tutera. “My door is not closed with the neighbors.”