Olathe & Southwest Joco

Olathe Planning Commission approves Saddlewood Apartment complex expansion

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A 444-unit apartment complex in southern Olathe has cleared its first hurdle toward reality after its developers tweaked the design to address concerns from adjacent neighborhoods.

The Planning Commission on Monday voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project, an expansion of the Saddlewood Apartments complex first approved in 1998 near the intersection of 153rd and Brentwood streets.

That project called for 36 two- and three-story buildings holding 360 units. In the intervening years, only 92 units were built.

The new owners plan to build four apartment buildings on the almost 19 remaining acres as well as 824 parking spaces, walking trails, a neighborhood dog park and green areas. Two of the buildings will be three stories tall while the other two will have up to four stories.

Residents in Saddlewood Downs, a single-family subdivision across Brentwood from the site, had complained in neighborhood meetings about four-story buildings being so close to their properties.

In response, the developers agreed to push the buildings farther back from Brentwood, added landscaped berms along the street and designed the buildings to “step down” to three stories on the ends facing the neighborhood.

Aaron March, an attorney for Saddlewood Associates LLC, said the building heights are necessary to make the project financially feasible and are reasonable as the property forms a transition between the residential areas to the east and industrial properties to the west.

In addition to the changes to the buildings, the developers also eliminated a road running through the property and said they’ll add parking in the northwest corner to address concerns about people parking along 153rd Street.

“The iterations and evolution of this plan have resulted in something that is better than we originally filed,” March told the commission.

He said the complex would be upscale with monthly rents starting at around $1,500 for one-bedroom units and increasing for larger units.

“We want to set a new standard for the area of quality because this area deserves it,” he said. “We want to be an asset to the neighbors.”

Tyler Nunemaker, treasurer for the Saddlewood Downs homeowners association, thanked the developers for the changes to their project. He said the neighborhood is continuing to push for the complex to help ban resident parking along 153rd, 154th and 155th streets, which he said affects traffic congestion.

“They have listened to our concerns and taken them into consideration when redesigning the neighborhood, and we greatly appreciate that,” Nunemaker said.

Bill Seiler, homeowners association president for the Villas of Asbury south of the project, also said he was pleased with many of the changes but still expressed worries about the large buildings being too close to his neighborhood, especially as city officials have approved a number of large apartment complexes and a multi-floor senior living facility in the area.

“We just have a concern about the four stories 115 feet from our property line,” Seiler said.

Before voting to recommend the project, the commissioners expressed relief that the development hasn’t generated the type of hostility these kinds of projects can cause.

“I’m very appreciative of the work that (the developers) have done to work with my neighbors to make something that I think could be a good addition to the community,” said Commissioner Barry Sutherland, who lives in Saddlewood Downs.

The project now heads to the full City Council for a vote, most likely next month.

David Twiddy: dtwiddy913@gmail.com