Joe Tutera is not yet ready to retire the idea of building a senior living community on the site of the former Mission Valley Middle School.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
The developer filed a new site plan for Mission Chateau, the proposed development at 8500 Mission Road, last Friday with the city. That filing comes only three days after MVS LLC, the development entity created by the Tutera Group, filed a lawsuit in Johnson County District Court contesting the Prairie Village City Council’s decision to deny his original special use permit application for Mission Chateau.
“MVS is optimistic that the new application requesting the issuance of a Special Use Permit to build Mission Chateau will meet with the approval of the Prairie Village Professional Planning Staff, the Prairie Village Planning Commission, and the Prairie Village City Council,” said MVS in a prepared statement.
The new site plan has one major change. MVS has eliminated 17 “villas” on the 18.4-acre property. Approximately 5.6 acres along the south end will instead be subdivided into nine lots for single-family homes. Without the villas, Mission Chateau’s overall square footage has declined from 358,040 to 325,890. The number of units for the entire project, which includes independent and assisted living facilities, a skilled nursing facility and memory care center, has decreased from 327 to 310.
While the overall footprint is smaller, it still may not be enough to satisfy the opposition, which has maintained that the scale of the senior community is out of character with the neighboring residences.
“His plan is down some from what he had, but not nearly enough. It’s still so massive,” says Bob Schubert, president of the Corinth Meadows Home Association. “We still hope that he’ll reduce it significantly.”
In September, the City Council voted 7-6 to approve the application for the Mission Chateau project, but the vote failed because a valid protest petition, filed the previous week, required a supermajority. The Planning Commission voted 5-1 in August to recommend approval. After the council’s decision, developer Tutera was adamant that he still intended to build Mission Chateau. And last week, he made it clear that he would attempt to do so by taking the city to court.
The 11-page petition filed by MVS looks at the recent history of the property at 8500 Mission Road, which was purchased in September 2011 for $4.3 million. The project has been controversial with strong neighborhood opposition led by the Mission Valley Neighbors Association. Throughout a series of public hearings and community meetings, the neighbors group maintained that the 358,040-square-foot project was too big and out of character with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Whitney Kerr Jr., president of the Mission Valley Neighbors Association, had no comment on the suit.
In its lawsuit, MVS contends that the protest petition, which requires a supermajority of 10 votes by the city council to approve a special use permit application, violated the company’s rights to due process and equal protection under the Kansas Constitution. The city is still determining its response.
“The city attorney is currently reviewing the petition and will be preparing for the defense of the appeal,” says City Administrator Quinn Bennion.
Under Kansas law, Tutera had 30 days to file an appeal with the court following the council’s decision on Sept. 3. The appeal calls into question the validity of the protest petition, arguing that it was enacted earlier this year as a direct response and potential obstacle to the redevelopment on the former school site. In order for a petition to be successful, 20 percent of the surrounding neighbors within 200 feet of a proposed project must sign the petition opposing a given special use permit application. The suit by MVS LLC argues that Mission Chateau should be allowed to move forward because it has met all of the zoning requirements and has been approved by a majority of the Planning Commission and council members.