When Prairie Village rewrote its zoning regulations last June, a housing development on former Homestead Country Club land was caught in the middle.
The 11-home development had been platted under the old rules, and lots were already being sold.
But when it came time to get a building permit, developer Evan-Talan Homes found a problem.
The new zoning rules required a different setback configuration — one club president Cory Childress and real estate agent Andrew Bash feared would precipitate design changes that would cause buyers to walk away from their contracts.
Now the development plan has bogged down while Childress and the city planning commission decide what to do.
Childress asked for a zoning change that allows deviations from the base zoning requirements, but was cautioned by Commission Chair Nancy Wallerstein that it would open the door to a protest petition and further delays. Meanwhile neighbors of the project voiced their concerns about stormwater drainage and the size and elevation of the homes, which will sell in the $1 million to $1.6 million range.
The planning commission met Nov. 30 in a special session on the issue but didn’t come away with a solution. Instead the matter will be discussed again at the commission’s next regular meeting January 10.
Childress requested the extra time so he could talk to neighbors and consider his options.
The 5.62-acre development came about two years ago as the Homestead Country Club at 6501 Mission Road struggled with market pressures. To stay open, the club sold off part of its land for the development.
Since most of Prairie Village has been developed, the new zoning regulations mostly apply to tear-downs and pieces of open land formerly in other uses. The city made the changes in an effort to scale the homes to the lot sizes.
The changes in setbacks won’t necessarily give the homes a smaller footprint, said Bash, but they could mean significant changes in the design of the homes.
When asked what the difference was between the setbacks in the old and new regulations, he said, “I can tell you the difference is between somebody buying the lot and not buying the lot.”
Not every home design would be affected by the changes, though.
Of the three lots sold before the zoning changes went into effect, only one doesn’t meet the new standards. Wallerstein asked developers to consider keeping the original zoning and asking for a variance for that one house, with the understanding that no further variances would be given.
It’s important to come up with a solution that will stand for future development at the site, she said. “I am concerned that while there are 11 lots right now I don’t know and I have heard rumors as to the health of the rest of the Homestead Country Club that this might not be the end of the development,” she said. “We need to be cognizant that what we approve will carry through the entire development if the country club portion should go away.”
But, Clark Roberts, the club's director of marketing and development, said any rumors about trouble at Homestead are a "total falsehood. We're doing very well.”
Although the club sold off part of its property two years ago, it still has nine acres that include an Olympic-sized heated pool, 12 tennis courts— four of which are enclosed in winter — and four platform/paddle tennis courts that are part of a popular tournament this month.
As a result, membership sales have been particularly strong, he added.
At the Prairie Village commission meeting, Childress submitted changes to the development’s stormwater drainage plan, which was a high priority among neighbors, but the commission asked that the discussion focus on the zoning change.
Neighbors said they were concerned about adequate drainage during rainstorms, as well as the appearance of the large homes at a higher grade.
Greg Shondell, for example, was skeptical of assurances that the developer was not seeking to build larger homes than the current zoning allows.
“If the footprint is not going to change what do we need a variance in the setback for?” He said the neighborhood is against the rezoning because residents fear it could open the door to other variations without their input.
Shondell and neighbor Margaret Cummings also mentioned that the homes will be on higher ground than the neighboring area. “The houses would begin three-to four feet higher than our back fence line,” Cummings said. “We did not sign up for close to 40-foot house behind our house and I am just dumbfounded at how this could happen without discussing it with us.”