The Prairie Village City Council on Monday approved new regulations aimed at the development of large homes within the city.
Councilmembers voted 11-2 to adopt a slate of neighborhood design standards, which include rules on tree planting, garage sizes and notifying neighbors.
City officials proposed the guidelines to address the rapid increase in recent years of owners tearing down the mid-century ranch and Cape Cod houses that have defined Prairie Village and replacing them with much larger homes. In some cases, residents have complained that the new, larger buildings overshadow their neighbors, cause drainage problems and are out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.
The council in 2016 implemented a group of regulations for property zoned R-1A and R-1B that limited building heights and restricted how close new homes could be built to side property lines.
The new regulations, which go into effect Feb. 1, are more specific, addressing both building designs and the look of front yards. They will apply to home rebuilds and home expansions of more than 200 square feet.
Any home that receives a building permit before Feb. 1 would be exempt from the new rules, said City Administrator Wes Jordan.
▪ Prohibit buildings, sidewalks, driveways and other impervious surfaces from covering more than 40 percent of a rebuilt or expanded home’s entire lot and requiring that at least 60 percent of the lot’s front yard must be planted with vegetation. There are exceptions for smaller lots or narrow lots on busy streets.
▪ Require all lots to have one tree planted near the street if there are none now, with large lots having one planted every 50 feet.
▪ Ask designers to use windows to break up large building walls, also called “massing.”
▪ Set minimums for the amount of space taken up by windows and doors on the front, sides and rear of homes.
▪ Create limits on the locations and sizes of garages as well as the size of garage doors.
▪ Tweak the height rules for rebuilt home foundations.
▪ Mandate that builders alert surrounding property owners of new rebuilds.
More than a half-dozen residents and building professionals addressed the council on the proposed rules.
Resident Teri Powell told the council she supported the new regulations, calling many of the new houses “grotesque.”
“I don’t even know why somebody would want to spend $500,000-$700,000 to move into a house that is surrounded by much smaller houses,” Powell said. “I would think we should do everything we can possibly do to keep the cohesiveness of our city.”
On the other hand, John Matthews said encouraging more development helps everyone in the city.
“The pool of people who want to live in cramped, small Prairie Village houses with one-car garages is dwindling, and if we push development out of Prairie Village we all suffer,” Matthews said.
Councilmembers Serena Schermoly and Ted Odell, the two “no” votes, echoed those concerns, warning that the guidelines were too restrictive and could curtail not only new construction but also renovations of existing homes.
Schermoly tried unsuccessfully to amend the regulations to exempt existing homeowners from having to comply with the new guidelines affecting impervious surfaces and massing. She said many of the residents she spoke with thought the guidelines would apply only to teardowns and rebuilds.
“We are making a one-size-fits-all answer for a substantial variety of properties,” she said. “As I look at our city today, most homes don’t comply with what we are describing as the charm of Prairie Village.”
But the majority of the council disagreed. Mayor Laura Wassmer and councilmembers Chad Herring, Jori Nelson, Ron Nelson, Tucker Poling, Andrew Wang, Sheila Myers, Brooke Morehead, Dan Runion, Courtney McFadden and Terrence Gallagher voted for the regulations.
“We could be working on them for another two years and they’ll never be perfect,” Wassmer said. “But we have to start somewhere. If we get into it and realize that it’s creating all kinds of unexpected and unintended consequences, then we can look at it again. But at some point, we have to say enough is enough, this is what we’re going to try and see how it works.”