Two hours into testimony Tuesday night about a new plan for a contested senior living community, the Prairie Village Planning Commission learned citizens might not have received enough notice for the hearing to be held.
By JONATHAN BENDER
Special to The Star
Attorney John Duggan, who is representing the Mission Valley Neighbors Association, the main and vocal opposition to the plan for a senior living community on the site of the former Mission Valley Middle School, argued that a lack of notice was part of a larger attempt to disenfranchise the adjacent property owners.
“Yogi Berra is worth mentioning tonight. I feel like it’s déjà vu all over again, except with a twist,” said Duggan. “The twist is that the applicant has come to the city to deny the surrounding property owners their due process rights.”
The commissioners tabled the discussion after city attorney David Waters advised them that the public notice before the meeting may not have been adequate.
In Prairie Village notices of a public hearing must be sent out 20 days before a meeting. It must include either a legal description of the property that will be addressed during the hearing or a general description with information on where a legal description is available.
“We do need to take a look at this again,” said Waters. “My concern is that said notice should indicate where such a legal description is available and I don’t believe there’s a statement on this.”
Developer Joe Tutera wants to build Mission Chateau on the site of the former Mission Valley Middle School at 8500 Mission Road. The latest site plan calls for a 310-unit development spanning 325,890 square feet on 12.8 acres. The new proposal has nine buildable lots for single-family homes on 5.6 acres, where the original proposal had 17 duplexes.
The lots — which would be part of a separate application contingent on the approval of the special use permit application — and elimination of the duplexes reduces the overall square footage of Mission Chateau by 32,150 square feet. The total number of residents has dropped from 412 to 378 people.
“How do you envision the residential lots being developed?” asked Commissioner Gregory Wolf.
“We’ll open the sale of lots to builders. There’s good interest from traditional family home builders that see this as a nice little niche pocket,” said Polsinelli attorney John Petersen, a spokesman for the project.
Duggan argued to the Planning Commission that the lots are simply a clever way around a protest petition that stalled the initial site plan two months ago. By segmenting out the buildable lots, Duggan suggested that the buffer zone effectively displaces the neighbors immediately to the south who oppose the project by moving them outside the 200-foot perimeter established in the protest petition requirements.
“The legal description in the public notice talks about 18 acres. The staff report talks about 18 acres. But they want to say for the purposes of due process you need to bifurcate the 12.8 acres,” said Duggan. “It’s an end run on the potential rights of the property owners.”
The City Council voted 7-6 to approve the original permit application in September. But the application was denied because the protest petition filed by the adjacent property owners meant that it required a super majority of 10 votes to pass. Tutera filed a lawsuit in October challenging the constitutionality of the protest petition and also submitted the revised site plan for Mission Chateau.
“[Tutera] is asking you to judge a second proposal while he’s still appealing the first proposal,” said Duggan. “Why would you consider the second application until there’s been a final determination on the first application?”
When asked for an opinion from the Planning Commission, Waters explained that other districts consider applications from developers that are also pursuing an appeal.
“This is a different application, legally speaking,” said Waters. “The feeling is that it’s better to have it done at the planning commission level than at city courts.”
The new proposal combines the skilled nursing and memory care center at Mission Chateau into a single three-story building that is 6,350 square feet larger than the two buildings called for in the previous proposal. The additional square footage was attributed to additional stairwells, larger hallways and common space for the residents. The square footage of the facility with independent and assisted living apartments hasn’t changed, but it is four feet taller on the new site plan. Petersen noted that the project met the zoning requirements for lot coverage, building heights, setbacks and intensity of use.
“Any developer has impact. You see something new. You see something different,” said Petersen. “But then you have to go back within the context and take an impact, which could be a subjective interpretation, and move it into an objective evaluation. You do that by adhering to the design elements required by the city.”
Duggan countered that even if the minimum standards are met, case law in Kansas gives the Planning Commission the right to deny a project based solely on aesthetics.
“That development is going to be a very disappointing development of a very promising parcel of land,” said Duggan.
In order for a public hearing over Mission Chateau to be on the agenda for the next Planning Commission meeting on Dec. 3, the developer would have to send out a notice by Tuesday.
“We’re confident that the notice is correct,” said Tutera after the meeting. “But we’re fine that the city is reviewing it.”