Northeast Joco

Prairie Village seeks public input on revising teardown regulations

The issue of guidelines for teardown projects will be discussed in hearing in the coming month.
The issue of guidelines for teardown projects will be discussed in hearing in the coming month. 2007 file photo

Prairie Village officials are holding a series of public meetings to get feedback on plans to limit the size of new homes being built or expanded in established neighborhoods across the city.

The first information session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 7700 Mission Road. The meeting is designated for residents belonging to the Prairie Village Homes Association, which initially requested the zoning changes.

A second session is scheduled for Monday for Prairie Village residents living north of 79th Street; a third is scheduled for March 2, for residents living south of 79th Street. Both of these meetings, which any resident can attend, also start at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

A committee of city staff, residents, developers and architects drew up the proposed amendments to Prairie Village’s residential building guidelines affecting houses in residential zones R-1A and R-1B. The changes are in response to residents concerned about property owners tearing down older homes and replacing them with much larger structures that are considered out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. Since 2010, 65 new homes have been built in Prairie Village and 58 homes torn down.

The list of proposed changes is available at

Among the changes:

▪ The maximum allowable height for houses in R-1B would be reduced from 35 feet to 29 feet and be limited to no more than two stories. The maximum height for homes in R-1A, which has larger lots, would remain at 35 feet and up to two and a half stories.

▪ The minimum width of side yards in both R-1A and R-1B on homes not located on a corner lot would be 10 percent of the total lot width, or 6 feet for a 60-foot lot. Rear setbacks would equal 25 percent of the total lot depth up to a maximum of 35 feet. Front setbacks would remain at 30 feet.

▪ Houses in R-1A and R-1B built with sides covering more than 800 square feet would require additional side setbacks from neighboring houses while houses with sides of between 600 and 800 square feet would require architectural details, such as bay windows, to break up the mass.

▪ New rules would require the use of dormers, gables, windows, entrances and other architectural details to break up the mass of the front of a house and limit the size and scale of garage entrances located on the front of the house.

▪ New construction or any renovations significantly increasing the amount of land covered on the property would require grading and storm water drainage plans.

The amendments wouldn’t affect homes already built, approved or under construction. They also wouldn’t supersede existing deed restrictions or homeowner association covenants.

In fact, of the 24 homes built last year, seven would have required no changes and the majority of the rest only subtle changes had the proposed guidelines been in force, city staff said. A couple of houses would have needed to be scaled differently, they said.

That relatively small percentage has led to division within the City Council on whether the changes are actually needed and how quickly they should be adopted.

At the City Council’s Feb. 1 meeting, Councilman Ted Odell expressed concern that the greater focus on limits in R-1B would restrict development.

“What I don’t want to do is put handcuffs on somebody so those areas never get redeveloped,” Odell said.

Councilman Andrew Wang added, “While you certainly want some structural harmony in the neighborhood, I want to get a feel for what the urgency is.”

Proponents of the rules, however, said the city’s current ordinances don’t adequately protect neighborhoods from overbuilt homes. For example, staff said that in some city neighborhoods it is currently legal for someone to build a home more than four stories tall.

“I don’t think we have time to waste,” said Mayor Laura Wassmer. “We need to do something quickly. Every day that we wait, we end up with more teardown requests, and we currently don’t have codes that, in my opinion, regulate these homes in the way that our residents are asking us to regulate them.”

Under the current schedule, city staff said they would take feedback gathered at the public information sessions to the technical committee to potential tweak the changes. The amendments would then go before the city’s planning commission before returning to the City Council for a vote, possibly as early as this spring.

David Twiddy: