Lee’s Summit city officials are talking about adding more apartments to serve aging baby boomers. But they are getting pressure from residents who live in areas those apartments might be built.
A public hearing at the July 13 City Council meeting addressed a proposed 23-acre project at the southwest corner of Bowlin Road and Jamestown Drive. It drew fire from residents of a subdivision to the south. They voiced familiar complaints about increasing traffic, crime and fear that apartments would draw undesirable residents.
After a long discussion, the council voted to continue the decision until September, allowing the developer to possibly make some adjustments to the plan.
Councilwoman Diane Seif noted only part of the council had heard the findings of a third-party housing study it commissioned that said Lee’s Summit could support another 2,500 luxury apartments beyond what has been built or that are in the city’s pipeline.
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West Ridge at the Lake would have 10 three-story buildings containing a total of 297 apartments expected to rent for $1,200 to $1,800, according to the developers, Randy and Tyler Sallee. The project would also include two commercial office buildings.
Randy Tallen, president of Lake Ridge Meadows Homeowners Association, asked what happens if the company is unsuccessful in leasing apartments at the rent amounts predicted.
Tallen asked what would happen if developrs are forced to drop prices to $800 a month or start accepting housing vouchers for Section 8? He predicted property values will drop and crime rates will increase.
“Multifamily housing doesn’t always bring the best crowd,” Tallen said.
While city officials and developers said residents of the apartments likely will mostly go north to Bowlin Road where they can directly reach the interstate, residents fear more drivers will speed south through their neighborhoods.
Morgan said the problems are getting worse in the corridor along Lakewood Way that runs parallel to Interstate 470.
“You’re going to see a lot more development,” Morgan said. “People are going to find a sneaky way to avoid traffic.”
His daughter Kathleen Morgan, 20, said she was a junior in college and questioned the claim that millennials prefer apartments. They’re tired of dormitory living, she said, and want small, three-bedroom houses where they have more freedom and green space of their own to take care of.
“That is what people of my generation want,” she said.
A couple of council members questioned why the city staff was accepting the Sallee’s proposal to exceed density of 12 units per acre, as called for by the city’s Unified Development Ordinance. The proposed complex would have slightly more than 14 units per acre.
“I want more apartments in Lee’s Summit, but there are better places for them,” said Councilman David Mosby, adding that the city shouldn’t deviate from its Unified Development Ordinance, changing setbacks or density.
“Those things are in the UDO for a reason,” he said.
Councilwoman Trish Carlyle suggested that as the council consistently allows modification for individual projects, maybe it needs to re-examine the ordinances.
Bob McKay, director of planning and special projects for the city, said high-end apartment complexes need higher density to help offset the costs of more amenities offered to tenants.
“I’d rather go up than out,” McKay said. “You get a lot more green space and places for residents to recreate and walk.”
Councilwoman Phyllis Edson said an urban-style apartment complex near one of the entrances for Blue Springs Lake would be out of place. She said she’s heard from six homeowners associations opposed to the apartments and has gotten numerous emails.
Opponents and some council members are also concerned about the strain on city emergency services.
Fire Chief Rick Poeschl said the department now is challenged to meet its goal of four-minute response times for that area and north of Lakewood Boulevard. Police Chief Travis Forbes said crime in that patrol district was falling.
Councilman Rob Binney moved to continue discussion of the project into September, to allow the developer and city to look at possibility of a different plan.
Binney, a real estate agent, said he didn’t agree that property values would fall if the project goes forward.
He said that was a concern raised earlier when the Monticello single-family housing project (which is next to the site) was approved and residents of the same neighborhoods were also fighting that project. Housing prices continue to increase in those subdivisions, he said.
He also noted that the city’s comprehensive plan since 2005 had called for high density, multifamily housing at that site. He said that while residents who prefer owning homes might not understand it, there are affluent people who choose apartments.
“There’s a strong ‘renter by choice’ market,” Binney said.
Binney floated the idea that including a roundabout for an intersection with Jamestown Drive might introduce some traffic calming and smoother flow.
Councilwoman Diane Forte said she understands the emotional impact on the neighborhoods, because she encountered the same opposition to the Residences at Echelon project in south Lee’s Summit, which are in her district.
Adding more apartments is good overall for the city, although some residents may not like them, she said. She said that as the city develops, there will be more congestion.
“We’re growing,” Forte said. “Traffic is going to be part of our future.”
John Lovell, a resident of New Longview, across the city on the west side, testified that he and his neighbors also had concerns when apartments were proposed in their neighborhood. New Longview had areas that were initially proposed to be single-family, but had been switched to apartments.
That neighborhood lobbied developers hard for some changes, but ultimately the Residences of New Longview were built. Lovell said retail, housing and commercial development was booming in his area, while their property values had gone up “exponentially.”
“We had the same fears, but mixed-use development actually works really well,” Lovell said.