Restroom project reflects fears on Leawood’s Ironwoods Park

05/23/2013 9:15 AM

05/23/2013 9:15 AM

The Leawood City Council unanimously agreed to build new restrooms for the amphitheater in Ironwoods Park at 147th Street and Mission Road over the objection of some residents who worry about the theater being expanded.

Council members voted unanimously in favor of the measure after nearly an hour of discussion and public comments. The restroom plan calls for a building housing seven toilets for women and two toilets and two urinals for men.

Cheryl Schoenberg, vice president of the Leawood Stage Co., which uses the amphitheater, spoke in favor of the plan.

“There is a time and place for Porta Potties, and we have outgrown them,” Schoenberg said.

Many of the citizens speaking against the restroom project said that this undertaking was indicative of a larger plan to expand the amphitheater and that the restroom is too big for the needs of the current amphitheater. But council members said building restrooms was not about expanding the theater.

Richard Coleman, Leawood’s director of community development, said city staff followed procedures to get an accurate estimate of how big the restroom facility would need to be for current amphitheater usage.

Resident Sharon Ervin, who lives near the park, and several others proposed a plan to build an indoor theater as an alternative to expanding the amphitheater. Their suggested site is near Leawood’s new justice center, expected to open this fall, at 119th Street and Tomahawk Creek Parkway.

The residents’ worries of an expanded amphitheater seemed to be based on a 2008 plan that was accepted but never approved.

Mayor Peggy Dunn and several other council members repeatedly said that Monday’s vote was specifically directed at the restroom project and not at other aspects of development at the park.

“We are not approving one speck of the amphitheater plan. We are approving the restroom plan,” said Councilwoman Carrie Rezac.

Residents should be involved in any future planning for development in that area, Rezac said.

The restrooms became separate from the 2008 proposal when the city requested a revised version of just that part of the plan, Dunn said.

“I don’t see this rest station in any way linked to that concept plan,” she said.

Councilwoman Debra Filla said there was no money budgeted for an expanded amphitheater in the city’s future plans.

“No matter how many consultants draw pretty pictures, there is no money,” she said.

The $323,000 of available funding for the restrooms comes from a previous bond issue. Parks and Recreation Director Chris Claxton said she could not be sure that budget would completely cover the restroom, because the current plan has not been priced yet.

Also Monday, council members discussed plans for the land containing the old police station and city hall at 9615 Lee Blvd.

They came to consensus to move forward using a concept drawing from DeGasperi & Associates Architecture as a guide. The drawing proposes tearing down the current fire station and temporary administrative center to make the north section of the property into a green space for possible development as a park as an element of the parks master plan.

A new fire station would be built on the south part of the property to allow the old station to continue to operate while the new one is being built. The city has not yet allocated funds for a new fire station.

The Leawood Historic Commission has proposed preserving the old city hall and turning it into a museum. Most of the council members were in favor of keeping the building.

Council members discussed moving the building to stand near the current city hall or building a replica, but many argued that the building should stay at its current site.

“You lose the historical value of the building completely if you move it here,” Rezac said.

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