Olathe & Southwest Joco

Overland Park takes first steps toward new development and capital improvements plan

Vision Metcalf cast its shadow over discussions of a city-wide visioning process the Overland Park City Council and the Chamber of Commerce plan to take up this year.

Last week, the council decided to take the first steps toward Imagine Overland Park, a plan that will eventually guide development and capital improvements for years to come. The approval means city and chamber officials can begin forming a steering committee and start the process of looking for a consultant.

The effort is expected to take a year to 18 months, with consultant fees roughly estimated at $150,000 to $200,000. The process will also involve the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

But the action wasn’t taken without a warning from some council members unhappy with the way Vision Metcalf – a guideline for the Metcalf Avenue corridor approved in 2008 – has turned out.

“Having been through the Vision Metcalf study, with 20-20 hindsight, I know there are things I don’t want about (the citywide vision),” Council member David White said during a committee meeting Monday before the council vote.

The Vision Metcalf consultant “decided to remake Overland Park,” he said. “And I am not interested in remaking Overland Park. We have got a good thing. We need to improve on it but we don’t need 20-story apartment buildings and things like that.”

The city should concentrate on keeping development rolling, particularly south of 135th Street, he said. He added that he wants to preserve a “status quo plus” rather than pursuing changes that would push the population to 500,000 and beyond.

However Councilman Curt Skoog said the city should be careful about that ideal.

“I come from a city that when I was young decided they wanted the status quo and 40 years later they are struggling to survive.” The future should be decided by a wide and diverse group of participants, he said, adding that the steering committee should reflect that.

Vision Metcalf has periodically been under fire at recent council meetings as various development plans have been discussed. Most recently, a proposal for a QuikTrip at 105th Street and Metcalf Avenue, was turned down after a debate about how it fit in with the plan. Last year, there were also questions about whether the plan would allow for a big box store in redevelopment of Metcalf South Mall.

Vision Metcalf generally discourages automobile-centric development and favors mixed use and pedestrian access. But some council members have said the city should take another look at it because of economic changes since it was approved. They have said it hinders needed redevelopment in the area.

While Vision Metcalf focuses on one thoroughfare, the visioning process discussed Monday is to determine the direction of the entire city.

Overland Park was incorporated in 1960, during a rapid rise in suburban populations. Over the years, there have been various plans and guidelines on how different areas of the city should be developed, and these have been based on the founders’ vision of strong schools, transportation, public safety and a good business environment.

Imagine Overland Park is intended as a chance to reflect on the how the city’s next growth period will look. Council member Terry Goodman suggested leaders should dive deep into land use, infrastructure and the changing demographics of the community.

The visioning plan will have heavy involvement of the business community. The steering committee will be selected by the Chamber, with approval of the City Council. The consultant would be paid for by the city.

Some on the council questioned whether the city or the Chamber should have more control over the process. Council member Fred Spears suggested the city, which will fund the consultant, should have more oversight.

However, Tracey Osborne, president of the Chamber, said it is important that the business community has a buy-in on whatever vision that emerges.

“Whether you’re talking about where things go or where those revenue sources come from, ultimately there’s someone who has to write that check and most of the time that’s the business community,” she said.

“It’s extremely important to make sure that the people you come to, whether it’s a year from now or 20 years from now, are at the table from the very beginning helping to drive those decisions.”