Overland Park & Leawood

Olathe planners split the difference on Wheatley Hills proposal

Updated: 2013-10-15T21:55:01Z

By LUKE RANKER

Special to The Star

After almost two hours of discussion, the Olathe City Planning Commission voted to recommend some, but not all, of a proposed development at 143rd Street and Pflumm Road.

Planners unanimously rejected proposed light commercial zoning at the intersection because of concerns it doesn’t fit with the city’s comprehensive plan, which calls for only residential zoning along Pflumm and 143rd.

Then, the planning commission voted 7-2 to recommend the proposed residential development to the the south and east of the intersection. That recommendation will go before the Olathe City Council on Nov. 19.

Previously developers had originally sought a CP2 designation to make the land, currently zoned for agriculture, a planned business district but a new plan was introduced earlier this year that asks to rezone the area to CP1, a planned neighborhood and commercial designation.

That plan, dubbed Wheatley Hills, called for commercial development on the southeast corner of 143rd Street and Pflumm Road, with about 240 single-family homes to the south and to the east that will be divided by an undeveloped strip of land.

Rod Richardson, an attorney representing landowner Menghini Holdings, said this plan was the best compromise between the city of Olathe, which would prefer to see the land used for residential use only, and Johnson County, which wants commercial or industrial development near the Executive Airport.

“Nobody will be completely happy,” he said.

Chris Riley, who led a presentation opposing the development at the previous public hearing, said he was pleased with the commission’s decision to deny the commercial zoning at the corner of 143rd and Pflumm and to stipulate that water runoff from the west portion of residential zoning be significantly reduced.

“It’s almost more than we could have hoped for,” Riley said.

Riley and other residents from Overland Park’s Amesbury Lake area were afraid that piping stormwater from the commercial development north to Tomahawk Creek would create more flooding problems in their neighborhoods. Projections by engineering firm Schlagel & Associates suggested that water flow down Tomahawk Creek would be reduced might be accurate for areas further downstream, Riley said, but not in his neighborhood immediately north of development, where water flow could increase by as much as 50 percent.

Nate Baldwin, project manager with Olathe’s public works department, said that while stormwater drainage from the eastern section of the development would be reduced by almost half in accordance with the city’s Title 17 mandate that stormwater drainage be significantly reduced at new development sites, the western section, including the commercial area had been grandfathered and not subjected to that mandate. Stormwater drainage in that area would be kept within in 1 percent of the current drainage.

But Planning Commissioner Greg Harrelson was not satisfied with keeping water within 1 percent. He proposed a stipulation that stormwater runoff from the west half of the development be reduced by 35 percent or be subject to Olathe’s Title 17 mandate that stormwater drainage be significantly reduced at new development sites.

“To say ‘Well we’ll be no worse off than we are now’ doesn’t cut it,” Harrelson said.

The commission also stipulated that no building contracts would be awarded to the site until the Olathe and Overland Park joint improvement project to 143rd Street was complete and improvements are made to Pflumm Road, including south bound turn lanes.

Olathe residents Denise and Dale O’Connor, who have owned their home in the Harmony View West neighborhood to the southeast of Wheatley Hills since 1977, were happy that the planning commission nixed the commercial development. But they are concerned about traffic from the residential development.

The couple is concerned that proposed lots sizes for Wheatley Hills would make the area too densely populated compared to their neighborhood. They’re also worried about developer’s plan to use Harmony View West streets as an outlet would pump too much traffic into their area.

“Our streets are not designed for heavy traffic,” Dale said. “There’s no curbs, gutters or sidewalks. People walk in the street.”

Richardson said the density of 2.09 units homes per acre was necessary to keep the lot and home costs reasonable. To help alleviate concerns about traffic into neighboring developments the commission stipulated that both a road and pedestrian path connect the two Wheatley Hills neighborhoods through the 30-acre area set aside to be undeveloped.

Next up, the city council will hear the planning commission’s recommendation. The council can either approve the plan, make its own recommendation or send it back to the planning commission for further review. If the city of Olathe approves the development it will then go before the Johnson County Commission.

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