The Vantage development plan that the Shawnee City Council denied in January is now in court, with the landowner asking for a reversal of that decision plus attorney fees and unspecified damages.
In a lawsuit filed Feb. 23 in Johnson County District Court, the landowner, Qrivit LLC, contends that the city council’s denial of the rezoning was not based on legal reasoning but on opposition of nearby neighbors who adamantly opposed it. The denial went against the city planning commission, which twice recommended approval.
The Vantage at Shawnee, a $35 million plan for apartments and amenities at West 62nd Street and Pflumm Road, was to be developed by America First Real Estate. It would have included at least 288 apartment units, a swimming pool, gated access and dog park on the now-vacant land.
The project had vocal opposition from nearby neighbors who questioned whether the roads and schools could support the influx of that many people. Some expressed a preference for homeowners rather than renters and worried that the apartment complex could eventually become low-end or subsidized housing. Developers assured the neighborhood that wouldn’t happen.
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The suit says the city acted “unreasonably, arbitrarily and capriciously” in denying the rezoning necessary to move the project forward. The project complied with the city’s comprehensive plan, a blueprint for land use and development, the suit said. The Vantage would not be a detriment to the neighborhood, according to the suit, which also cited the planning commission’s two recommendations of the project.
The council’s reliance on neighborhood feelings was not an acceptable legal reason for denying the project, the suit said. It quoted Councilman Mickey Sandifer as saying, “I sided with the people and what they wanted. But I think it’s a very good project.”
The suit also contends that the denial of the project poses a hardship for the landowners.
Controversy over the Vantage has been going on since America First applied for rezoning last September. Numerous neighbors turned out for public hearings on the project, which originally included 14 buildings of 312 apartments.
But the city council had difficulty coming to consensus after a long and contentious meeting in December because of a legal protest petition that required a supermajority of votes. The council sent the measure back to the planning commission for further exploration of traffic questions.
The commission again recommended the project Jan. 4, and the developer offered to cut the project down to 288 apartments at the next city council meeting, Jan. 25. But the council voted down a motion to approve it, effectively stopping the development plan.
Some neighbors said they would have preferred a different plan for a senior housing complex. That plan was approved for Tax Increment Financing in 2008, but eventually failed. The Vantage developers did not ask for any special taxing districts to help with their costs.
The city did not offer a comment on the pending lawsuit.
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