Joco 913

Long-delayed Willows project in Olathe is OK’d

After 22 years of hearings, three Johnson County court trials and two trips to the Kansas Supreme Court, the Willows development planned for an area near the Johnson County Executive Airport got its final approval.

The Johnson County Commission last week unanimously gave the OK for the 156-acre development at 143rd Street and Pflumm Road. With the commission action added to earlier approvals by the county airport commission and city of Olathe, the development can finally go forward, said Rod Richardson, attorney for the landowner.

The Willows has bounced through various commissions and courts because it lies within a mile of the airport. Development that close has to get approval both from the city and county because of safety concerns.

The development started out with a density of three units per acre, but is now down to 1.4 units, with 210 lots. Also, the middle of the tract will be left as an open area, providing extra landing space for planes in trouble.

Richardson said the two-decade journey has resulted in a good compromise between all the interests in the development. It allows the county to protect airport safety and Federal Aviation Administration rules while ensuring some economic return for the landowner, Mike Menghini of Olathe, he said.

“All things considered, a great deal of effort went into this,” he said.

Some neighbors of the proposed development expressed concern during a recent city meeting about stormwater drainage and traffic, but none came to talk at the commission’s meeting Thursday. The county commission’s discussion was limited to airport safety and compatibility issues.