Plans for the Shawnee Mission School District’s newest elementary school have hit a snag with the Lenexa Planning Commission, which recently withheld approval for the school’s final plan because of traffic concerns.
The commission okayed three other actions for the land use for the school, which will be built on the northwest corner of 87th Street Parkway and Haven Street. Those recommendations were for rezoning, a final plat and a special use permit allowing the school.
The final plan however, failed on a 5-4 vote. All the matters will be heard by the Lenexa City Council at its Feb. 7 meeting.
The district will make some changes in the traffic plan before the next meeting, but does not plan to change the entrance point from Haven Street, said Kennneth Southwick, deputy superintendent.
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Shawnee Mission officials made a new elementary a priority in the western part of the district because of continued growth in enrollment expected with development in the area. However the search for a space has been difficult, given the high land prices in the area. The new school will be near Lenexa’s City Center development, near Interstate 435 and 87th Street Parkway.
The school will be 73,000 square feet and two stories except for the gymnasium area, which is planned for one story. The plan calls for a fenced playground with baseball diamond, a separate early childhood outdoor area for pre-Kindergarten students, a fruit tree grove and rain garden.
However the plan did not sit well with some neighbors.
Twelve people spoke against it at the commission’s public hearing Jan. 9. Most said they were not against the school itself, but disliked the configuration of the pickup lane, which enters and exits from Haven Street. That street would be widened along school property to allow a third lane for the extra traffic.
According to the draft minutes of the meeting, some residents worried that the influx of traffic during school mornings would make it difficult to get out of their neighborhood and to work on time. Residents of a cul-de-sac opposite one entrance feared the early morning traffic would make getting out of their street impossible.
They also asked why the entrances couldn’t be put on the 87th Street Parkway side of the building, or off the western side near the National Guard Armory.
Tim Collins, the city’s engineering construction services administrator, said an 87th Street entrance would be less safe because 87th Street Parkway is a four-lane arterial with more traffic moving faster.
Having the entrances off the Armory side also pose problems because of the slope of the land, said Duane Cash, project manager for the school development.
Some commissioners shared resident’s concerns about traffic, comparing it to pickup and drop-off at Rising Star Elementary near 87th Street Parkway and Candlelight Lane. Traffic in that neighborhood is very congested, they said.
Residents who spoke against the plan also had concerns about what would happen to the northern, treed part of the site. The district has no plans to develop that part of the property, but residents worried that could change as the years ago by.