The first test is underway on how strictly Lee’s Summit will enforce its new architectural standards for downtown.
Lee’s Summit orthodontist Craig Grider intends to tear down a vacant gas station at Third and Market streets and erect a one-story brick building where he will relocate his practice.
But Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street Inc. and some planning commission members didn’t like some modifications he was seeking.
“If in the very first project, if we don’t really adhere to the standards, we’re setting a poor precedent for the future,” said Brad Culbertson, a member of Main Street group’s board of directors and design committee.
The City Council is expected to hold a hearing Thursday on the $759,800 project.
Meanwhile, Grider has won a recommendation for a 10-year tax abatement, worth up to $141,000.
The city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority voted last week to recommend abatement for part of Grider’s redevelopment costs, such as removal of a waste oil tank and environmental remediation.
“We’re looking for redevelopment of a corner that’s been an eyesore for a long time,” said authority chairman Keith Asel.
A hearing on the abatement is scheduled for Oct. 10 before the City Council. It’s possible the request could be altered as the design is modified.
Grider told the LCRA board that he would incur extra expenses erecting a new building and replacing the parking lot, while meeting the city’s downtown design standards.
Those standards were an issue when the city Planning Commission, on a 5-4 vote in August, recommended denial of the plan.
Since then, Grider said, he’s changed the design of windows so the spacing is more even. He said there is discussion of moving the building farther east on the lot, closer to the corner of Market, more in keeping with development on other corner lots.
Back in August, the city staff said Grider’s proposal mostly met the new downtown design standards, adopted by the City Council in March. But some modifications he sought sparked debate over how flexible the city should be.
Commissioner Colene Roberts said she didn’t like the building and preferred one that would would extend east to Market Street. She called the design a “tiny building on a great big parking lot.”
Roberts noted that the historic core of the business district covers only a few blocks.
“That’s all we’ve got, and I guess we can’t compromise.”
But Kurt Pycior said inflexibility is not the right approach because projects frequently need modifications to be practical.
“I think we have lost our way,” Pycior said. “This is great — I supported (downtown standards) — but you have to give and take a little bit.”