Leawood backtracks on Ironwoods

06/18/2013 4:38 PM

06/18/2013 4:38 PM

The Leawood City Council Monday night rescinded its 2009 Ironwoods Park Amphitheater Master Plan, which had called for expanding the amphitheater for the Leawood Stage Company.

The council also rescinded its 2009 authorization for private fundraising for the project.

The vote was 6 to 1, with Lou Rasmussen voting no. James Azeltine abstained, saying he didn’t like the wording of the motion.

The council directed the Amphitheater Steering Committee, a citizens group that was formed in 1996 and drafted the 2009 master plan, to have a consultant do an impact study and an architect draft a new plan and put it before citizens for a public hearing. Rasmussen is a member of the committee.

Council members said they never approved an expansion plan — rather they merely “accepted” the steering committee’s report. But regardless, Monday’s vote signaled a victory for Ironwoods Park neighbors who have complained in recent years that the amphitheater is too big and is depressing their property values. The Leawood Stage Co. performs musicals in the amphitheater in the summer.

The steering committee’s plan called for restrooms to be erected near the amphitheater. The council approved the building of the restrooms a few weeks ago, and that approval still stands.

Approximately 20 Leawood residents attended the meeting and five spoke to the council, four against the expansion. Opponents object to the theater’s lights, noise and traffic after dark. They say the city should build an indoor performing arts center next to the new justice center at 117th Street and Tomahawk Creek Parkway.

“This is such an unbelievable mess. Pare down the size. Reduce it to a more acceptable size,” said resident Kerry Phillips, who lives next to the park and the amphitheater. “Or we have that beautiful piece of land next to the justice center” to build an indoor theater.

The group, Save Ironwoods Park, has done an impact study that shows their property values would decline if the theater is expanded.

“There would be a significant loss to our home values,” said Leann Wiggins. “We have no problem with arts being in the park. We have problems with its size and scope. I think anything with outdoor lighting after 6 p.m. is bad.”

Leawood resident Steve Ruyle said an outdoor theater is substandard for Leawood.

“Ironwoods Park is the crown jewel of Leawood. I don’t want to sit outside in the sun and watch a play. Upscale in Leawood, not outside with the bugs,” Ruyle said.

But at least one Leawood resident said he preferred the outdoor venue to an enclosed building.

“My wife and I and our children are all performers — dancing ballet, acting — and there’s something extremely satisfying to perform outside where the audience doesn’t have to pay ... bugs, heat, humidity and all,” said Chris White.

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