Lee’s Summit city leaders are getting a big opportunity and they want to hear from residents about how to use it best.
Two large tracks of land are coming open for development within city limits that have up to now been virtually untouched open spaces. The roughly 4,000 acres are currently owned by Property Reserve Inc. which is a subsidiary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The group has contacted the city and asked to begin the process of working together toward development of these land holdings.
Lee’s Summit Mayor Bill Baird says the timing is good, as it coincides with an already-scheduled long-range planning process the city was gearing up for in the first part of 2019.
“We are all very excited. To have this much land right in the heart of the city,” Baird said. “This will really be master planning at its finest, because it’s such a large land mass there are no buildings or houses.“
The land is in two separate areas of the city. The first, about 1,000 acres, runs north and south along Route 291 (I-470) south of Woods Chapel Road and East of Lake Jacomo. It is across the highway east of the Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport.
The second tract, which is about 3,000 acres, is southeast of Longview Lake and Longview Road, extending to Highway 291 at Southwest Hook Road. That tract alone is as big as the land masses of some small cities.
Baird believes one of the biggest advantages Lee’s Summit has in planning this land all at once is the opportunity to bring together parts of the city that have been formerly separated by the empty space.
“Geographically, Lee’s Summit goes far north and south and pretty far east and west, as well. It’s going to help us grow together and feel like we are all one city,” Baird said.
Until now, the only project Property Reserve Inc. has worked on with the city is the development of Todd George Parkway as a part of the Strother Road interchange project. It bisects the northern 1,000 acres of land scheduled for planning.
The City had to build that road as an outer road with the construction of that new interchange. That project was completed in 2010 and paid for in part by a $1.2 million Federal American Recover & Reinvestment Act grant. The remainder of the $3 million needed for the project was paid for by Strother Road area TIF/TDD funds. At the time, PRI donated all of the right-of-way and easements required for the majority of the 2-plus miles of roadway.
City Manager Stephen Arbo says when the Todd George Parkway project was underway, the city came up with some general ideas about how the area along the new road could potentially be best used.
Those plans are not a detailed comprehensive plan, which can now be developed. The city has never looked at possible uses for the southern 3,000 acres, because planners never knew if or when the property owners were going to develop.
“Unlike the north area, that area has remained untouched and unplanned,” Arbo said. “It is zoned agriculture and (has) been used for farming purposes for crops.”
The city is benefited by working with Property Reserve Inc.
“Big land holders can have an impact on the local economy. We are fortunate that PRI understands that,” Arbo said. “They want to work in partnership to make sure it’s a positive result for the city.”
PRI has engaged a Kansas City-based engineering firm to conduct an environmental, transportation and utility services assessment of the two properties. When that assessment is complete, PRI will meet with the city’s leadership team to develop long-term implementation plans relating to transportation and utility services development.
Ultimately, there will be a master land-use plan created for the properties to provide a reasonable approach to development of the areas.
In the meantime, the City of Lee’s Summit is examining the needs of the city, which undergoes long-term planning approximately every 10 years. It happens that the planning scheduled for 2019 will ask residents and city leaders to consider the next several decades for the city’s future. Questions include where and how the community will grow in that time.
Baird explains that city planners were going to look even further out than usual this time.
“We are just blessed the timing of this,” Baird said.
The City of Lee’s Summit will begin in late February to gather public input at forums and meetings. There will be online moderated conversations about key issues, and city workers will be going into the community to gather feedback in locations like coffee shops where people often gather. The City’s strategic planning process is expected to be completed by mid-2019.