Olathe planners recommend rejection of apartment complex

05/23/2013 4:08 PM

05/23/2013 4:08 PM

A proposed apartment complex that a developer wants to build in Olathe might not see the light of day.

Maecommon LLC has filed plans for the 510-unit development, called Olathe Commons, to be built near 119th and Alcan Streets. But the Planning Commission is recommending that the City Council deny the project.

Planners believe the complex is too dense for the area, which is surrounded by single-family homes.

“This is a high-profile project that impacts surrounding neighborhoods,” said Sean Pendley, a senior planner for the city. “There are a lot of residents who are upset about the density and the height of the buildings.”

The City Council intended to vote on the plan Tuesday evening. But John Petersen, the attorney representing Maecommon, asked for a continuance. The council will now vote on the project on June 18.

The planning commission’s disapproval is the latest obstacle the property owner has faced in the past seven years.

In 2006, the council approved a different project by the same name to be built in the area. It was supposed to have 150 townhomes and duplex-style units, along with roughly 70,000 square feet of restaurants and retail. It was stalled by the recession.

In March, the owner brought the Planning Commission a new proposal for an apartment complex, saying there was no longer a market for commercial development in that area.

The new plan, twice the size of the original, was deemed unacceptable. It included 550 units and three-story buildings on the south property line.

The City Council considered the same plan on April 16, but returned it to the Planning Commission so the applicant could address issues of density and scale.

An altered version of the plan came to the Planning Commission on May 13. The one had fewer units, and buildings on the south property line dropped from three-story to two-story.

But the Planning Commission didn’t feel the changes were enough.

At the meeting, some commission members said they still felt the area was better suited for low-density, multi-family development as the original plan from 2006 had intended.

Pendley, the senior planner, said he understood what they meant.

After all, he said, a lower density project would be a more appropriate transition from the single-family homes.

“We believe multi-family is an appropriate use for that area,” he said. “We just don’t think the developer has addressed every concern. There is still room for improvement.”

If the council denies the project, the developers will have a few options, said Pendley. They could appeal the decision to the district court, submit a new plan any time or submit a similar plan in one year.

“A new plan would require substantial changes to the original one,” said Pendley. “For example, it would need a decrease in units by about five percent or more.”

No matter the outcome, he hopes it is favorable to all involved.

“We need to make sure this plan makes sense for everyone,” he said.

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