Olathe & southwest Joco

Olathe residents try to head off Wheatley Hills project

Updated: 2013-08-20T22:37:14Z

By BETH LIPOFF

Special to The Star

Neighbors of a proposed subdivision and business development near 143rd Street and Pflumm Road are worried about traffic, noise and flooding.

About 60 Olathe and Overland Park residents voiced their disapproval of the proposal at a meeting Thursday night with representatives of landowner Menghini Holdings.

The meeting was intended to gauge residents’ concerns and provide information about Wheatley Hills before the proposed residential and commercial development goes before the Olathe Planning Commission on Sept. 9.

Most of the residents’ questions for attorney Rod Richardson, who led the presentation for Menghini with engineering firm Schlagel & Associates, revolved around concerns about increased traffic in the area, water drainage, and noise and lighting from the commercial portion of the plan.

The land is currently zoned for agricultural use, which Richardson called “the lowest and worst use you can imagine” for it.

Various landowners have been trying to develop this property since 1994. Twice before, proposals have gone to court after objections by Johnson County, which operates Johnson County Executive Airport to the south.

Richardson said the current owner is trying to present a design that is a compromise between what the city of Olathe wants and what Johnson County wants.

The developers had previously sought a CP2 designation to make the area a planned business district but revised that after hearing residents’ concerns earlier this year.

Richardson said the current plan, which asks for a rezoning of the area to CP1, a planned neighborhood and commercial designation, balances concerns Schlagel and Menghini have heard from residents, Johnson County officials and the city of Olathe.

The current plan calls for a business development on the southeast corner of 143rd Street and Pflumm Road, with 234 single family residences to the south and to the east of the commercial property.

Richardson said the business area would be similar to one located at the northeast corner of 151st Street and Nall Avenue.

But Olathe resident Joseph McMillian said 143rd Street is already “badly congested” and called the company’s modifications to the plan cosmetic.

McMillian said a number of vacant commercial spaces already exist in the area, along 135th Street and 151st Street.

Chuck Tonkin, who said he worked in the commercial lighting industry, was worried about light pollution.

“You’re going to light up my back yard like a firecracker,” Tonkin said. “…You can’t block commercial light.”

Richardson said that the types of lighting they plan to use would feature cut-off fixtures, which shine light down to minimize light pollution.

Jeff Wilke, a traffic engineer for TranSystems, conducted a traffic impact study for Schlagel and said he recommends a traffic light and turn lanes for the 143rd Street and Pflumm Road intersection but did not think the business development would necessitate widening 143rd Street from two lanes to four.

Residents expressed skepticism at the study, because it was conducted in June: Multiple residents said that the traffic in the area is significantly different during the school year.

Overland Park resident James Thorpe said he’d be more supportive of the development plans if expanding 143rd Street was part of the deal.

“Whether it’s commercial or residential, it’s going to bring in more traffic,” he said.

Drainage was also a contentious issue Thursday night for some residents who already are dealing with flooding from Tomahawk Creek.

Jeff Skidmore, a project engineer for Schlagel, said that the project includes five discharge ponds that would regulate the flow of water draining from the property.

But Overland Park resident Gary Rappard was worried about pond upkeep.

“The problem I see is ponds often fail and require a great deal of maintenance,” Rapppard said. “If we’ve already got a serious problem (with flooding from Tomahawk Creek), the homeowners face a substantial risk.”

Olathe resident Dale O’Connor said he’s lived in his home since 1977 and never had a problem with flooding until recently, when 151st Street was widened.

Other residents mentioned concerns about safety relating to the nearby Johnson County Executive Airport, but Richardson said that the development team had consulted with Lee Metcalfe, the airport’s executive director, when making the current plan and is leaving some land empty south of the proposed residential area as a concession to the airport.

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