The latest proposal to create a mixed-use development on 40 acres near Pryor Road and Interstate 470 in Lee’s Summit is heading back to the drawing board.
The City Council on Thursday unanimously voted to send the “conceptual development plan” for the West Pryor Village back to planning commissioners to adjust.
The primary concern was that the proposal, drawn up by city planning staff, ignored zoning boundaries the council approved for the project in March — drifting outside those lines by three or four acres to provide enough room for the desired plethora of shops, apartments, and parking.
“It’s unfortunate that we have a culture where it’s acceptable to deviate from a council mandate,” Councilman Dave Mosby said.
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City officials have wrestled for years with the future of the site, part of which the city owns, located across Pryor Road from the SummitWoods Crossing shopping center.
Developer David Christie earlier proposed a big-box development similar to SummitWoods for West Pryor Village, but the council rejected that idea. Subsequent plans also failed because nearby residents objected to a proposed — and later removed — senior center, the location of apartments, increased neighborhood traffic, and the potential effects on Lowenstein Park, southwest of the project.
Bob McKay, director of planning, detailed the new conceptual plan, which he said considered most of the neighborhood concerns and met the council’s demands for a mix of housing values and styles as well as amenities that would draw visitors and shoppers from outside the city.
He also noted that the site is difficult to develop because of rough topography and the large electricity transmission lines that run diagonally across the property, which will have to be moved before construction could begin.
McKay said the site would include 233,600 square feet of stores and restaurants — including a 63,000-square-foot grocery store, 28,800 square feet of office space, 324 apartment units, and a 270-room hotel complex with attached parking garage. He said the plan relocates the entrances to the project to discourage additional traffic from using residential Black Twig Lane to reach Chipman Road.
“This gives you an idea of what the vision is, what we feel the vision should be for this property,” McKay said. “It’s a unique property. It’s one of the few properties that we have like this that has this kind of access to it. You’re right on 470.”
In March, the council rezoned the 40 acres for planned mixed use. A large swathe of adjacent property to the west was left unchanged and zoned for agricultural use.
The conceptual plan includes some of that land, which McKay said was necessary to get everything to fit.
However, he said that because the plan is conceptual and non-binding, a developer wanting to make the plan reality would have to either change the plan to fit the rezoned area or submit an application to have that property added to the mixed-use zone.
But some questioned whether approving such a plan would at least give the appearance that the council members tacitly approved of that expansion, muddying the waters and providing uncertainty for nearby residents.
“What’s relevant here is that this body spoke and thought there was a general area of understanding of where we envisioned this process going, and then tonight we’ve been presented with something different,” said Councilman Rob Binney, who ultimately pushed for sending the plan back with the instruction to remove the areas outside of the property zoned for planned mixed use.
A number of residents spoke at the meeting, repeating their concerns that the site could increase drive-thru traffic in their neighborhoods, that the apartments included too many units, and that the large amount of development on the site could cause serious problems with how storm water drains in the area.
Several also asked why there was such a concerted push to create new retail and restaurant sites while several other retail developments in Lee’s Summit are just starting to prove themselves and at a time when the explosion of online shopping has caused significant problems for brick-and-mortar stores across the country.
“We know this property is going to be developed,” resident Kari Naylor said. “But why are we so desperate right now?”
In other business, the council voted 6-2 to give preliminary approval to creating a community improvement district to help redevelop the old Bank of the West building at 740 N.W. Blue Parkway for a pair of restaurants.
The district would levy a special 1-cent tax on all sales within the property for up to 25 years and use that money to offset the cost of demolishing the 1970s-era structure, which the owners say is dilapidated and contaminated with asbestos.
Bob Johnson, the developers’ attorney, said one of the restaurants will be a Texas Roadhouse, while his clients are negotiating with a second national or regional chain for the other restaurant. He said the overall project is worth $12.5 million and the community improvement district tax would generate $1.3 million of that.
Mosby and councilwoman Phyllis Edson voted against the proposal. Mosby said the higher taxes at the restaurants could encourage diners to travel outside the city to eat, hurting city revenues.
The council also heard a presentation from Novak Consulting Group with recommendations for strengthening the city’s human resources department, which has been operating without a permanent director since February.
Michelle Ferguson, an organizational assessment practice leader with Novak, said the city needed to elevate the department to report directly to the city manager and hire specialists trained in dealing with making sure city compensation remains competitive as well as overseeing workforce development.
She also said the city needed to add more technology to automate such functions as hiring and workers’ compensation claims as well as to begin tracking how long it takes to fill positions within the city, the first step in finding ways to improve the process.
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