A group of neighbors of the former Mission Valley Middle School has sued Prairie Village, alleging the City Council wrongly approved a special use permit for a senior-living/care facility on the site.
That means the city has now been sued both by the project’s developer, the Tutera Group, seeking to overturn an earlier rejection of the permit, and by a group of neighboring opponents, seeking to overturn its final approval.
No wonder, then, that Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer called it “the most controversial issue I have seen before the Planning Commission or the council in my 24 years.” Shaffer was a council member from 1990 to 1999 and has been mayor ever since.
Shaffer, who twice voted in favor of Mission Chateau, declined to comment on the merits of either lawsuit over the project, saying he would let the courts sort them out.
The Mission Valley Neighbors Association has long contended that the 325,000-square-foot project is too large for the site. But the association’s main contention in the legal action it filed Feb. 3 is that the city wrongly allowed the developer to prevent homeowners immediately south of the 18.4-acre school property from signing a protest petition against the permit.
The association asserts that the Tutera Group did this by changing its initial plan covering the entire school property to one that would substitute — and thus exclude from the permit area — a 200-foot-wide strip of single-family lots along the southern border of the tract.
By doing so, this kept the objections of homeowners immediately south of the old school property from being counted by the city. If the single-family home strip — and a road serving it — is not counted, the south-side homeowners are just outside the 200-foot boundary to be counted in a protest petition. If 20 percent of the homeowners within 200 feet of a proposed special use permit tract sign a petition objecting, a three-fourths supermajority of the City Council is required for approval.
The Tutera Group’s Mission Chateau proposal failed for just that reason on Sept. 3, when its request for a special use permit got seven votes of the 13-member Council.
Soon thereafter Tutera Group sued the city. It then redrew its plan, substituting nine single-family-home lots for what had been 17 company-owned duplexes on the property’s southern edge. That shrank the permit area to 12.8 acres and prevented homeowners immediately south of the old school ballfields from counting in a protest petition. Absent their objections, City Attorney Catherine Logan ruled that just 18.31 percent of the surrounding homeowners had protested, meaning that the proposal could pass with a simple majority vote of the Council. It did Jan. 6 on a 7-6 vote in which Shaffer broke the tie to favor the project.
“Unfortunately, the Mission Valley Neighbors Association has opposed all efforts to redevelop this property and has filed suit against the City of Prairie Village seeking to invalidate the Special Use Permit,” Tutera Group President Joe Tutera said this week in a written statement. “… The Tutera Group is confident the decision of the City of Prairie Village will be upheld in court and looks forward to constructing a senior living facility that is an asset to the City of Prairie Village and its residents.”
Brian Doerr is an attorney and Mission Valley Neighbors Association member whose initial protest against the special use permit was disallowed under the revised plan. He said that not only was the revision improper, but that Mission Chateau itself goes against the city’s “Village Vision” master plan.
Village Vision states that anyone redeveloping the Mission Valley site “be required to obtain buy-in from the neighbors,” Doerr said. “It’s not binding, and they don’t have to follow it. But that begs the question: If not, why even have it?”
Tutera Group spokesman Ryan Fischer described Mission Chateau as being “on the scale and type that complied with the Village Vision.”
The Tutera Group plans to build 136 units for independent living and 54 units for assisted living in one 228,340-square-foot building. To the west of that building, 36 units for memory care and 84 skilled-nursing-care units would be in a 97,500-square-foot, three-story building.