It was déjà vu for the Overland Park Planning Commission on Monday evening.
After a six and a half hour long meeting, it approved rezoning — for a second time — on a 7-4 vote to allow an enormous mixed-use project to replace the Brookridge Golf & Fitness Club on the northeast corner of Interstate 435 and Antioch Road.
The commission had already approved the rezoning at its meeting last month, but the action was invalidated when city staff discovered the developer, Curtin Property Company, had not properly notified all the surrounding property owners.
Whenever there is a request to rezone property, Kansas law specifically requires written notification of all property owners within 200 feet of the project’s property.
The developer has since redone the notification process.
Dozens of unhappy residents showed up to the meeting, hoping to have one last chance to change the commission’s vote.
Many of them fear the massive redevelopment will sink property values and spike traffic jams.
The developer says the plan will transform 5.9 million square feet of the property into an attractive, upscale urban village. It will feature 2.2 million square feet of office space, more than 300,000 square feet of retail, about 2,000 multi-family units, a 650-seat movie theater, a 3,500-seat indoor performance venue and a 550-room hotel. The project also features a large park along Indian Creek.
It will take about 20 years to complete.
City staff recommended denial of the project, with a main reason being that it relies on traffic improvements requiring ownership of property along Antioch Road not yet under the developer’s control.
Residents insist the flashy project is too dense for the spot, which is surrounded primarily by sprawling single-family neighborhoods and multi-family units.
“This isn’t an Iowa cornfield where if you build it, they will come,” Jeff Lee, a nearby homeowner, told the commission. “We don’t need this scale of office buildings and retail in our neighborhood.”
Although he doesn’t live right on the golf course, Lee argued he would be affected by the project’s aftershock.
“When there are pileups and traffic jams on 103rd and Antioch, all those people will be coming through my neighborhood,” he said. “This will affect my quality of life, as well as people who might live in my neighborhood in the future, such as my grandchildren.”
Andrea Chastain, who lives The Orchards condominiums, agreed.
“I am not exaggerating when I tell you that when I try to make a left turn at Antioch right now, I take my own life in my hands,” she said. “It’s extremely dangerous. To increase the traffic in this area is ridiculous and shameful.”
Resident Wayne Smith told the commission that the city often warns residents to stay away from Indian Creek during thunderstorms.
“But now you want to put the largest concentration of people this side of the Chicago loop there,” he said, exasperated. “And I’m sure there will be some children living in those thousands of apartments. If one of them is swept into Indian Creek during a storm, will the city take responsibility?”
Even former Overland Park mayor Marvin Rainey showed up to voice his displeasure.
He expressed skepticism that the project would even be built if it was approved, because it is contingent on too many unreliable factors, such as constructing a new interchange for I-435 and obtaining several homes along Antioch to complete traffic improvements.
Other residents were disappointed the commission as a whole wasn’t adhering to the city’s recommendation of denial.
“We trust you to represent the homeowners and we want you to respect your staff’s negative opinion,” Bettina Evans told the commission. “Please consider how this extremely high-density proposal will impact our homes. Would each of you wish to live in Pinehurst Estates in the next twenty years, while this thing is being built? I don’t think so.”
In response to the criticism, John Petersen, the legal representative for the developer, said he sympathizes with the residents’ concerns but he maintains that the development team has done its best to compromise.
“We’ve reduced millions of square feet for this plan over time and we agree with staff’s stipulations,” Petersen said. “We know there are feelings and opinions about it, but all we can do is stand by the plan we’ve created.”
He also emphasized that the construction would not be continuous for two decades; it would happen in phases.
“There won’t be a chain-linked fence around the site for 20 years,” he said.
Some of the commissioners sided with the residents.
“It’s a very passionate issue and I appreciate everyone’s input,” said Commissioner Rob Krewson. “We take this project very, very seriously and put a lot of thought and discussion into it. Today, I didn’t hear anything that changes my mind so I still side with staff on denying the project.”
Commissioner Robert Gadd agreed.
“I’m going to go along with staff because they don’t lead us astray very often,” he said.
Others stood by their support of the plan.
“This project has a lot of good elements and I think it will be a good fit,” said Commissioner Janie Thacker. “Often, the plan we see today isn’t the end product. Sometimes it comes out much better in the end.”
Chairman Michael Flanagan echoed her sentiment.
“What we started here today is just the beginning,” he told the audience. “Projects often go through updates and changes.”
The Planning Commission’s approval is just the tip of the iceberg for the Brookridge project. The City Council will vote on the item at its Sept. 21 meeting.
To reach Jennifer Bhargava, send email to email@example.com.