A reluctant Overland Park City Council held off on an order to bulldoze 10 deteriorated rental properties in the northern part of the city, but only after an extended scolding of the absentee landlord at its Monday meeting.
Instead the council agreed to give the Dayton, Nev. property owner until mid-March for the homes to meet code and be habitable. If the city inspectors don’t have a good report by the April 3 council meeting, they warned, the properties would be declared unsafe, setting the stage for demolition.
Council members had many stern warnings and no kind words for representatives of the owner, the John Diehl Beer Trust. The properties are one of the prime reasons the council recently enacted regulations that require inspections on rentals and fees for landlords, said council member David White.
The houses were built in the 1970s and are in the area around the 6900 block of Floyd Street and the 7100 block of West 69th Street, east of the Milburn Golf and Country Club. All except two units are vacant.
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At an October meeting, the city staff presented pictures of interiors and exteriors in gross disrepair, with holes in the roof, non-working garage doors and a bathroom cluttered with detritus. But at the meeting Monday night the council was told that work crews are steadily making the needed repairs and that there has been some improvement.
Although the owner was not at the meeting, his lawyer, Mark Bodine, and a representative of lenders Fannie Mae and Wells Fargo did attend. Bodine told the council that workers have made significant progress in the past few weeks.
Bodine said the problems came about because property managers Beer had hired took advantage of Beer’s absence and did not keep up on repairs. He said it is in his client’s best interest to make the repairs because he has considerable equity in the properties.
Council members, however, were pointedly skeptical.
Council members Dave Janson and Curt Skoog questioned how often Beer visited his property. “If I had a half million in equity in property I rented out I’d be there every week looking at it,” Janson said. “These properties have been a dump for years.”
Others noted that the owner and lenders were apparently unaware of years’ worth of deterioration, but are involved now that the city has threatened to raze them.
“The council has worked very hard for ten to fifteen years making sure our neighborhoods are clean, safe and vibrant. Mr. Beers has not been helping at all. We are not going to have this in our city,” Janson said.
Council member David White called Beer a “slum lord.” He told Bodine, “This council member is going to keep the shoe on your client’s throat,” to make sure repairs are accomplished.
Farmers Market upgrade
A council committee approved a grant application to Mid-America Regional Council to study ways to expand and improve the Farmers Market in downtown Overland Park.
The market has been so successful that parking and congestion on market days have become an issue, according to the city’s project application. The study would focus on how to improve the parking situation, the market pavilion and how to provide better public transportation options and event space near the clock tower, even on non-market days.
The market pavilion itself takes up a significant amount of parking space. In addition, the city noted that the pavilion is narrow and crowded and does not have lighting, a heat source or protection from blowing rain that would make shopping there a better experience.
Although bus service has been added to the downtown, there is no service on Saturday, the biggest market day. The project would also look at how to create more public transportation options.
The total project would cost about $120,000, including a local match of $60,000. The local match will come from the 2017 existing budget and not require additional spending.
Final approval on Metcalf South
A redevelopment plan for the 30 acres around the Metcalf South shopping center jumped through its final hoop Monday night, with congratulations from the Overland Park City Council.
Council members approved the final development plan for the $80 million project that will include a Lowe’s home improvement store plus smaller retailers.
The Metcalf South Mall, one of the area’s oldest shopping centers, would largely be demolished. The Sears store on the property — at Metcalf Avenue and 95th Street — would remain and is not part of the redevelopment plan.
Although the Metcalf South plan was not discussed before approval, Mayor Carl Gerlach invited project developer Owen Buckley, president of Lane4 Property Group, to the podium to receive applause from the council.
“The second life of Metcalf South will take off, and we are excited,” Gerlach said.
Buckley thanked council members and pledged to keep them apprised of construction timetables. At an August meeting, developers said they hoped to have the Lowe’s store open in spring 2018.
The redevelopment is expected to include the 165,000-square-foot Lowe’s, plus 13 smaller retailers around the perimeter near the existing Sears store. The final plan does not require public financing.
An earlier $324 million plan was withdrawn last summer after opposition surfaced from city planners and some neighbors.