After sending an assisted-living center project back to the Planning Commission this year for revisions to address some neighbors’ concerns about its height and screening, the Overland Park City Council voted 10-1 Monday night to approve the development.
Indiana-based Mainstreet Property Group had requested a special-use permit to tear down the now vacant Antioch Church of the Nazarene, 7600 Antioch Road, and build in its place a skilled-nursing and assisted-living facility. The property is bordered by a strip mall on the north and by single-family homes on the south and west, and across Antioch to the east.
The area is currently zoned for single-family residential use, and several nearby neighbors expressed their concerns with the project’s mass and height when it came before the Planning Commission in December and the council in January.
Representing the owners, attorney Curt Petersen of the Polsinelli law firm said Monday night that Mainstreet Property had made significant revisions to the project in terms of its mass and its setback from residential property owners, and provided screening to prevent the lights of visiting cars from shining in the windows of adjacent homes.
Compared to the original proposal, the overall size of the project remained about the same at 86,000 square feet, and it would provide the same number of beds, 130. But the three-story portion of the building was reduced and reoriented to more of a north-south axis, thus shrinking the three-story frontage facing neighbors to the south.
“There have been earnest efforts for months in terms of having the best fit on this site,” Petersen told the council.
That hardly mollified the two dozen or so neighbors who made their presence known during the public hearing portion of the meeting. Several speakers objected to the density of the project and its presumed negative effect on their homes’ property values.
“It’s too big,” said Linda Neville. “It’s not in keeping with the neighborhood.”
Mike Everhart complained that during its second hearing on the project in February, the Planning Commission had ignored the concerns expressed by neighbors and City Council members. He decried “hostile staff” and “backroom deals” by commissioners, drawing a rebuff from Mayor Carl Gerlach and a couple of council members.
“I reject about 100 percent of what you had to say,” Councilman Terry Goodman replied. “You have offended me with your characterization of the city staff, the Planning Commission and the applicant’s attorney.”
Goodman cited several projects he had dealt with during his 13 years on the City Council and seven years before that on the Planning Commission.
“Over 20 years, those concerns have not proven out,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding. We’ve built a pretty good city.”
Only Councilman David White spoke and eventually voted against the project, likening its density to “50 pounds in a five-pound sack.”
Said Gerlach: “I’d prefer (the building to be) two stories, but we’ve got to consider what happens if we turn it down and it goes away. Next time it could be four stories.”
The council did stipulate that the developer consider raising three-foot-tall screening walls along the south side of the property to six feet and that Mainstreet Property submit its final plan to the full council, rather than just the Planning Commission, for approval.