Shawnee & Lenexa

Mack House wins demolition delay

The Mack House, a 1940s-era home and the centerpiece of the Oakridge Farms property north of Shawnee Mission Park, is getting a 60-day reprieve from the wrecking ball.

The Johnson County Park & Recreation District board on Wednesday voted 4-2 to have a subcommittee take one last look at potential uses for the property, which in the past has been considered for corporate retreats, a horse boarding operation or a pavilion for events.

The county bought the 5,137-square-foot home and the attached 480 acres in 1987 for $2 million. The original owners, Warren and Charlotte Mack, lived in the house until Charlotte Mack, then a widow, moved out in 1999.

Since then, the park district has developed a series of master plans for the land, which has an expansive view of the surrounding farm and Shawnee Mission Park. Budget constraints, however, prevented the district from completing any of those ideas.

District staff estimated it could cost more than $1 million to renovate the structure to make it accessible by modern building and accessibility standards.

Meanwhile, the home’s remote location has made it a target for vandals in the last few years, a factor that, combined with the lack of a clear future, led staff to recommend the building’s removal.

A group of Mack family members attended the meeting and tearfully asked for the board to find some use for the house rather than tearing it down. Barring that, they said they wanted an opportunity to go into the house and remove pieces of sentimental value.

“My grandmother and grandfather would not be happy,” Sara Mack told the board. “I think, honestly, if they knew this was what was going to happen to that house they probably wouldn’t have sold it to you.”

Board member Michael Pirner sympathized with the family and said he felt it was worth additional study.

“I certainly think we as a district have a great deal of flexibility regarding our options in this part of our park system, options that would preserve the history of this property and be a unique feature within our system,” he said. “Perhaps we do a pavilion, perhaps we do both (the house and a pavilion), perhaps we do nothing and simply leave the area green. I would like to completely study those options first before tearing down the house.”

Fellow board members Chris Carroll and Nancy Wallerstein disagreed, saying the district has had plenty of time to plan the house’s future and leaving the structure as is will lead to additional vandalism and possible injury.

“I think there’s a time when you just have to pull the plug,” Wallerstein said.

County Commissioner Steven Klika, a member of the board, said he supported the additional review but pushed for the 60-day deadline.

“At some point, we’re going to have to get some closure to this issue,” Klika said. “You see the trauma this is causing the family, and I’m not sure it’s fair one way or the other that they have to continue to deal with this and come before this group over and over again.”

In other business, the board approved an agreement with the city of Prairie Village and the owners of the Meadowbrook development that oversees cleanup of hazardous waste on the proposed future site of the Meadowbrook Park.

An environmental assessment of the 82 acres of the former Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club earmarked for the park found up to a half-acre of land contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons likely created by fuel spills when the area included a maintenance shed.

The developers, VanTrust Real Estate, doing business as MB-18 LLC, will pay for removing contaminated dirt on the site and replacing it with clean dirt. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment would certify that the site was safe for park visitors.

A pair of engineering groups estimates the cleanup will cost up to $200,000. As part of the agreement, MB-18 will set aside $400,000 in an escrow account to cover the work and maintain $1 million in insurance for future claims on the site for 10 years.

Prairie Village, which is scheduled to approve the agreement Monday, plans to buy the land from MB-18 and turn it over to the park district to develop what will be the largest public park in northeast Johnson County.

David Twiddy: