Leawood on Monday ended a 56-day moratorium on development along its 135th Street corridor and put in place guidelines that call for mixed-use projects there.
“Tonight’s action was momentous; equivalent to when the City Council said we’re no longer only residential,” City Administrator Scott Lambers said.
The decision to become more than a bedroom community was taken in the 1980s, as Leawood leapfrogged Interstate Highway 435 to the south. Monday’s move was made with an eye to future of the city’s next major east-west corridor.
“This is our vision moving forward,” said Councilwoman Carrie Rezac. “In all the meetings I have attended, I hear mixed-use is where things are moving and what people want. This is about sustainable development, so we don’t have empty boxes.”
The guidelines approved Monday night call for large projects to be composed of at least 30 percent office space, 20 percent residential and 10 percent retail and/or restaurant. The use of the remaining 40 percent of each project would be up to the developer.
Only Councilman Andrew Osman, who is himself a real estate developer and consultant, voted against the 135th Street Community Plan. Osman said it would unduly restrict development, and he expressed the fear that the market for mixed-use developments was limited, which might leave the undeveloped tracts along 135th Street lying fallow and city tax revenues lagging.
“The impact will be to limit and pigeonhole ourselves,” Osman said. “There is a finite number of developers who can actually pull this off. The capital required is so immense. Banks today are lending for multi-family and residential (developments), not commercial. Prairiefire and Corbin Park and State Line Commons are $150 to $250 million projects. We are bookended on both sides by State Line and Overland Park. So one mixed-use project might work, but a number of mixed-use projects might not.”
With Leawood hemmed in on the south and west by Overland Park and on the east by Kansas City, the 135th Street corridor represents the last large, undeveloped tract of land in the city — about 800 acres. At its April 21 meeting, the council put in place a 90-day moratorium on all development planning there, including rezoning and special-use permits, while it considered amendments to its comprehensive plan for the area. Several meetings were held to gather input from the public and other interested parties.
The council has been studying the issue for more than a year, and Lambers said there was still more work to be done in the future. Amendments to the Leawood Development Ordinance that flow from the 135th Street plan will come before the council later, he said.
The council on Monday also approved a plan for staff to apply for another grant from the Mid-America Regional Council to study the implementation of the guidelines they approved. MARC previously funded a grant that led to the current guidelines.
In other business, the council heard that work on the dog park addition to Leawood Park was taking longer than anticipated, and that an opening date of Aug. 15, rather than July 1, is now expected. New restrooms at Ironwoods Park are expected to be completed by July 1.