After more than 20 years of numerous failed plans, a large piece of open land in Olathe is one step closer to being developed, despite objections from neighbors.
At its meeting Tuesday evening, the Olathe City Council unanimously approved rezoning to allow a single-family subdivision, named The Willows, to be constructed on the massive open lot near 143rd Street and Pflumm Road.
Since the land is within a mile of the Johnson County Executive Airport, the plan will also require approval from the Johnson County Commission and the airport commission.
The Willows will feature 210 lots and, to satisfy airport safety regulations, it will have 33 acres of agricultural open space.
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Rod Richardson, the attorney representing Michael Menghini, the land owner, told the council that his client worked hard to appease the city, the county and the airport.
“This landowner has done more than any other I have represented to make this work,” Richardson said. “For the first time in 22 years, this plan meets the golden requirements from one end to the other.”
Dozens of residents, who live near the property, were dismayed by the council’s approval.
Their primary concerns are increased traffic, a proposed street connection to the Harmony View West neighborhood and storm water issues.
“When it rains, the water pours out of Tomahawk Creek in waves, like an ocean,” Lyn Levine, an Overland Park resident who lives nearby, told The Star. “It’s downright scary and people who move into those future homes need to be aware of that fact. All of that concrete and those roofs, it’s going to make the flooding even worse.”
Dale O’Connor, who has lived in the area since 1977, said he’s not against development of the empty land, but he doesn’t think The Willows subdivision would transition well with the surrounding neighborhoods.
After all, he told The Star, several nearby homes average around half a million dollars, and they sit on sprawling lots. The proposed homes in The Willows will sit on smaller lots and they will be less expensive, he said.
His wife, Denise, added that she thinks the overflow of new homes and the street connection into her subdivision could make the area less safe.
“We are known as a quiet neighborhood, but that will change,” she said. “With strange cars using our streets as a go-through, we will probably see an increase in crime and traffic. We don’t have sidewalks and street lights, making it even more dangerous, especially for the children who bike and walk around in the evening.”
Beth Wright, transportation manager for the city, told the council that a traffic study was conducted and the city was satisfied with the results. She said the street connection is needed to provide additional emergency access to the neighborhood and to help disperse traffic.
During the public hearing, many residents told the council that they don’t think any new houses should be constructed in the area until improvements to 143rd Street are made, since the road is already so dangerous.
Sean Pendley, a senior planner for the public works department, told the council that construction would begin on the west side of the subdivision, along Pflumm Road. The rest of the project will begin once improvements are made to 143rd Street. Construction of road improvements on 143rd is expected to begin in 2017.
He also said that both Olathe and Overland Park city staff are satisfied with the proposal and stipulated storm water improvements for the project.
In the end, the council members agreed the plan was acceptable.
“I believe this is the best land use and the best possible outcome we could have,” said Councilman Jim Randall.
The rezoning issue for The Willows will go before the Airport Commission at its meeting on Feb. 24. The Johnson County Commission will consider the item at its meeting in March.
Jennifer Bhargava: firstname.lastname@example.org