Developer mulls next move after Platte County rejects 379-home neighborhood

10/02/2013 9:30 AM

10/02/2013 9:41 AM

A developer is considering his next move now that the Platte County planning commission unanimously rejected his plans for a 379-home neighborhood between Northwest 76th Street and Missouri 45.

Brian Mertz of PC Homes LLC could rework his proposal to build the Chapel Ridge development on the land east of Interstate 435, but his plan already had the backing of the countyÂ’s planning and zoning staff before he brought it to the commission last month. He could appeal the rejection to the Platte County Commission, but he could count on continued strong opposition from residents who say the project is too dense for the area where Mertz wants to build.

“I don’t know if we’ve decided what we are going to do as a team,” Mertz said. “We are still wrestling with that.”

The plan that went before the planning and zoning commission called for a 379-lot single-family housing development on 143 acres, with homes priced around $300,000. Sixty-eight of the residences would include yard maintenance and snow removal. Mertz also planned 24 acres of open space with walking trails, a dog park, a club house and two pools.

The site is now zoned for agriculture and rural estate, and Mertz wanted the county to rezone it as R-7, for high-density, single-family development.

Opponents in the area raised concerned about traffic and storm run-off, and called the proposal out of character with surrounding neighborhoods. They organized a “Say No to Chapel Ridge” group that has a website, a Facebook page and a petition to argue against the development.

Tom Clinkenbeard, a spokesperson for the group, said he doesnÂ’t believe Chapel Ridge follows the Platte County Land Use Plan. He referred to language in the plan saying the county prefers to maintain the integrity of existing neighborhoods and transition gradually between zoning levels.

He said the adjoining properties in the area are four to six zoning categories less dense than the R-7 designation thatÂ’s being proposed for Chapel Hill.

“That’s not a gradual transition. That’s an abrupt deviation,” he said.

But a staff report from Platte County says the Chapel Ridge proposal conformed to the land use plan. According to the report, the plan in that area calls for one to four detached, single-family homes per acre. The Chapel Ridge development would have a gross density of 2.65 lots per acre.

Daniel Erikson, Platte County Director of Planning and Zoning, said the wording in the countyÂ’s land use plan that Clinkenbeard referred to addressed a different category of development, not a single-family housing project such as Chapel Ridge.

He said county staff had recommended approval of the preliminary plat as well as the rezoning request.

Erikson said the area has a mix of zoning densities, including the Thousand Oaks and Hidden Valley subdivisions about a half a mile south of the proposed Chapel Ridge site, which are both zoned as R-7. The properties immediately next to the proposed development, however, are zoned for either rural or agricultural use.

In addition to questioning whether the Chapel Ridge would fit into the areaÂ’s existing character, opponents voiced concerns about the additional traffic it would bring.

The preliminary plans proposed two access points onto Northwest 76th Street at the north side of the development and one onto State Highway K/Hampton Road on the east.

A traffic study done in conjunction with the planning process determined that Chapel Ridge would bring an additional 3,600 trips to the daily traffic count numbers each day on Highway K once it is fully built-out. Opponents worry what that would mean on a thoroughfare they describe as a dangerous rural road with no shoulders and deep embankments.

Mertz said he planned to make improvements to Highway K in two areas to alleviate some of those concerns: widening the highway for the proposed entrance at Northwest Crooked Road, adding a left-turn lane into the development, and realigning the intersection of Northwest 76th Street and K Highway.

“Yes, we will be adding traffic but K Highway is rated to handle that traffic, which was something that was just kind of brushed under when we went in front of planning and zoning,” he said. “They paid no attention to (the Missouri Department of Transportation’s) letters.”

But John Grothaus, who lives near the site, argues that the improvements would only address one small section of the highway.

“Most of the traffic is going to run the full length of K and that’s where the dangers are and where the hazards are — where you don’t have any shoulder, you’ve got steep embankments, dangerous embankments, instead of a shoulder,” he said. “Generally, you have no room for maneuver, no margin for error.”

The Say No to Chapel Ridge group has also raised concerns about storm water run-off.

Don Lozano, a resident of Countrywood who recently retired from designing bridges, said he believes the storm water run-off study used in the proposal relied on outdated rainfall data, overestimated the run-off that now comes from the area and didnÂ’t consider the effect the run-off would have downstream in Countrywood.

Mertz said the study was preliminary and only meant to demonstrate the need for storm water control. It used standard rainfall data for the county, he said, and did consider impacts downstream. He said more detailed final studies would be necessary further into the project, with updated rainfall data.

Now Mertz must decide how — or whether — to make his next move. He said he is still considering appealing the decision to the county commissioners, but also voiced frustration that the preliminary plat had been denied in a 0-6 decision by the planning and zoning commission against the county staff’s recommendation.

“County was with us every step of the way with planning it,” he said. “We took every comment they wanted and we implemented it and now it’s like they denied everything they wanted. So, I don’t know what we are going to do.”

Members of the Say No to Chapel Ridge group said they arenÂ’t opposed to development that fits with the character and density of the existing community.

“The opposition may say that our group is anti-development. That’s not true,” Clinkenbeard said. “We understand that this property will be developed sooner or later. What we are essentially trying to do is gain a seat at the table.”

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