Northeast Joco

Mission Hills weighs options on renovating Nichols-designed Sunken Garden from 1920s

Mission Hills City Council discussed options for repairing the Sunken Gardens site. One option is to fill site in the water feature with dirt; another is to renovate the expansive water feature at about 65 percent of its current size.
Mission Hills City Council discussed options for repairing the Sunken Gardens site. One option is to fill site in the water feature with dirt; another is to renovate the expansive water feature at about 65 percent of its current size. Staff photo

Mission Hills is looking for help in its quest to renovate the 1920s-era Sunken Garden at Mission Drive and Overhill Road.

The park, designed by developer J.C. Nichols in a depression hollowed out during construction of the surrounding neighborhood, is built around a central pond with bubbling fountains. City officials have struggled for years to keep the water features operating as they battled dilapidated plumbing and drainage problems that often fill the basin with sediment.

The City Council on Monday discussed options for repairing the site, which range from simply filling in the water feature with dirt and creating a more general park to renovating the water feature at about 65 percent of its current size and surrounding it with benches, sidewalks, stone slab steps, a path and extensive landscaping.

Assistant City Administrator Jennifer Lee estimated that the first plan, which would eliminate the pond and add park amenities, would cost about $110,000.

Renovating the water feature by itself would cost an estimated $275,000, and renovating the water feature and adding the park amenities would cost an estimated $340,000.

City Council members have set aside $175,000 for the project, meaning they would need assistance to cover the more extensive options.

Lee said the city has reached out to surrounding homeowners associations and the Mission Hills Homes Co. has expressed its support for the project and a willingness to make a “significant” financial contribution. She said the association hasn’t said how much that would be and that it supports building the renovations in stages over several years to make it more feasible.

She said she is waiting to hear back from representatives of the Tomahawk Road Homes Association and the Indian Hills Homes Association.

While a majority of the council said they favored keeping the water feature, they said they weren’t ready to move forward with the project until they had a better idea of how much private money would be available.

“It’s hard to give approval to something this large when you don’t know how much and when the other funds are coming, which then leaves the city on the hook,” said Mayor Rick Boeshaar.

Councilwoman Barbara Nelson said she would need more information on what the new water feature would look like and questioned whether the project’s price tag was worth renovating a small park that she said many residents don’t know exists. In fact, she said she favored requiring the city to get $100,000 from private sources before moving forward.

“I’m not going to buy that there’s that much enthusiasm,” Nelson said. “We are committing $175,000. That’s a lot of taxpayer money for a very modest area.”


In other business, the council approved a zoning ordinance that limits the amount of light that a newly constructed home’s exterior lighting features can shine on adjacent property or public streets. As part of the home’s final inspection, a police officer would measure the strength of the lighting at the property line.

Although the ordinance applies only to newly constructed homes, city officials are planning to add similar light limits to existing nuisance codes, meaning officers could also measure light pollution in response to resident complaints and then work with homeowners on dimming the lights or finding ways to redirect their brightness.

Officials said the rule change is in reaction to the trend of homeowners adding extensive outdoor lighting to backyard entertainment centers.

David Twiddy: dtwiddy913@gmail.com

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