Prairie Village residents are giving mixed reviews to proposed zoning changes that would limit the size of new and renovated homes in the city, with some saying the rules don’t go far enough.
City staff on Thursday held the first of three meetings designed to gather public input on the planned amendments to the city’s residential building guidelines.
The proposals, which affect residential property zoned R-1A or R-1B, include a number of zoning changes that would limit the height of houses, change how building height is measured and alter the size of side yards in an attempt to provide more room between houses.
The changes also include new design standards that try to replicate housing features common throughout the city. These include requiring windows, front entrances, bays and other architectural features to break up the mass of a house’s front or sides. They would also add controls to the location and scale of garages and require home builders to coordinate with the city for drainage permits if the new design covers a greater amount of the property with housing, driveways or other impervious surfaces.
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Some residents argued that the proposed amendments seemed more concerned with architectural choices than limiting the size and scale of new and renovated homes.
“We can’t regulate style, and that’s what all of these guidelines are doing,” said Allen Gregory, who said he is currently building a house in Prairie Village. “You’re not accomplishing any of the goals you set out to do.”
Mark Eddy, a developer and resident, said that trying to restrict architectural designs would force builders to become creative.
“I can tell you I could think of a lot of ways to build a house and get around these restrictions that would look absolutely horrendous,” Eddy said. “You don’t want to put people in that box.”
He and others recommended a different strategy of having the city begin regulating building materials and perhaps even creating an architectural review board to more closely protect the integrity of neighborhood character.
“These problems you’re trying to solve are architectural problems,” Eddy said.
Assistant City Administrator Wes Jordan asked the several dozen attendees if they agreed that the city should consider restricting building materials and a large number raised their hands.
Jordan cautioned that the city has viewed such review boards as potential legal hazards and the city likely doesn’t have the staff to handle another level of building regulation.
Other speakers, however, welcomed the rules as a good balance between keeping neighborhoods diverse but not letting new homes become disruptive.
“I think you’ve done a good job bringing the different generations in the community together,” said one woman.
Bruce Wendlandt, a Prairie Village architect and part of the technical committee that drafted the rules, said the guidelines were designed to make large homes look less massive and that he definitely didn’t want to restrict architectural expression.
“The key is we want to see good stuff, whatever flavor it is,” Wendlandt said. “We can’t afford an architectural review board. We can’t afford the upstart costs or the maintenance costs or the legal battles that could result from it.”
Katie Trenkle, another architect, agreed that she didn’t want the rules to force all new houses in a neighborhood to look the same. She said she did, however, want to encourage property owners to recognize that Prairie Village is full of small lots and homes close to one another.
“This is about respecting your neighbors and creating something that enhances our property values and enhances our community,” Trenkle said.
Toward the end of the night, Jordan asked the audience if the proposals were “on the right track” on controlling unfavorable development in the city, and a majority raised their hands to indicate they were.
Jordan said he would take the comments from the meeting, as well as the next two meetings, back to the City Council and the technical committee to potentially make changes in the rules. The final list of proposed changes would need to go before both the city’s Planning Commission and the council for final approval, possibly by this summer.
David Twiddy: email@example.com
The next public information meeting is scheduled for March 2. The full proposed guidelines are available at http://www.pvkansas.com.