The beleaguered redevelopment plan for the Brookridge Golf and Fitness Club will bounce back to the city council on June 6, now that Overland Park planning commissioners have once again approved its rezoning.
The Brookridge project, which has been controversial since the golf course was purchased in 2014, came at the end of an eight-and-a-half hour commission meeting Monday night that featured extensive public testimony on two high-profile developments. Commissioners voted 7-3 to approve the Brookridge rezoning, with commissioners George Lund, Robert Gadd and Michael Flanagan opposed. In approving it, they disagreed with the city staff recommendation to deny the rezoning.
It was the fourth time the planning commission has considered the proposal to bring apartments, offices, a motel, theater and performance venue as well as park space to the 131-acre area on the northeast corner of Interstate 435 and Antioch Road. The iteration of the plan before this one was approved by the planning commission but denied by the full city council when its members could not get the supermajority required once neighbors filed a legal protest.
Technically, the rezoning considered Monday night was a new plan. But large parts of it remained similar to what was proposed earlier, with the exception of a 6.25-acre section in the northwest corner for golf use that had been separated from the zoning. Commissioners unanimously approved the preliminary plan for that area in a separate vote.
The development calls for 1.84 million square feet of office space, about 252,000 square feet of retail space, a 650-seat movie theater, 550-room hotel, 3,500-seat performance venue and 2,076 multi-family dwelling units.
The idea is to build an upscale, walkable “urban village” that appeals to young professionals and empty nesters but will still have open space for families, said Grant Curtin, of Curtin Property Company. The plan also has about 45 acres of park space, including land around Indian Creek.
Attorney John Petersen, who represents the developers, spoke of a “sense of frustration” among all parties at the repeated hearings on the project. But he said the process has proved that the developers are willing to listen to residents and work with the city. The developers increased setbacks along 103rd Street to 85 feet and have reduced the square footage of office and residential space and lowered the heights of some buildings, he said.
“Do I want a medal for it? No. But we’ve worked and we’ve worked and we’ve worked to earn the approval of the governing body,” Petersen said, adding that the work has resulted in a better plan.
The greens and golf clubhouse in the northwest corner are the latest example of developers improving things for residents in that area, he said.
Many residents who spoke at the meeting didn’t see it that way. They objected to the density and size of the plan, saying it would make traffic unbearable and change the character of their neighborhood.
Mary Boreen said the plan would be too much of a change for a neighborhood that now is surrounded by schools and places of worship.
“You’re wanting to create a Corporate Woods North in Brookridge,” she said. “I can see this in other areas but you’re taking and redefining and redeveloping an area that’s already developed.”
Boreen said the city should listen to the “old timers” who live in the area and, “keep this our home and stop trying to change everything.”
Joan Rodkey called the plan a “serious detriment” to the neighborhood, saying it did not offer enough of a change from previous plans that were also too dense.
“We identify this as a plan on a diet,” she said. “A little reduction here, a little there — but not enough to really count or make any overall difference.”
Others, including a representative from The Orchards condominiums, disliked the access points and traffic patterns. Some were especially concerned about a part of the plan that widens Antioch Road to six lanes.
The road widening is at the heart of the staff’s recommendation to deny the rezoning. To make the wider road possible, the developer would have to buy some of the homes along that street. But there’s no guarantee those homeowners want to sell, making the idea “speculative,” according to planning staff.
Having city approval of the plan will make it difficult for them to sell to anyone but the developer, said a lawyer representing one of the homeowners.
Speakers were interrupted twice by two different residents along Antioch who complained that they had been high-pressured to sell or unfairly dealt with.
Not everyone who spoke was against the development. Allen Carl, a former board president of nearby Unity Church, supported the idea because it follows the multi-use real estate trends. “This to me is what that land that can’t be a golf course should be for this town,” he said.
Planning commissioners who supported the development said it’s unlikely the area will remain a golf course, no matter what plan goes through. Brookridge has been a golf course since 1959, but interest in the sport has lately been on the decline. “Almost anything that happens here is going to be a change,” said Commissioner Tom Robinett. “Mixed use is the wave of the future. It’s progress.”
Commissioner Michael Flanagan, who had supported it in the past, changed his vote this time because of the speculative aspect mentioned by staff.
Commissioner George Lund praised the hard work that went into the plan, but said, “This particular plan just does not fit the site.”
Roxie Hammill: firstname.lastname@example.org