Kansas City Council members postponed a decision Wednesday in a heated battle over the Catholic diocese’s controversial proposal to build student housing near Rockhurst University.
The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph wants to build an 85-unit, 237-bedroom residential building for Catholic college students on the site of the former St. Francis Xavier School, on the west side of Troost Avenue near 53rd Street.
But the proposal has prompted a prolonged fight between the diocese and St. Francis Xavier parish, which wants the old school saved and put to other use. Three times since 2012, the City Plan Commission, an advisory group, has rejected the diocese’s plan because of heavy neighborhood and parish opposition.
Despite those rejections, the City Council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee agreed to give the diocese a hearing Wednesday. After three hours of testimony, the committee remained concerned about the lack of neighborhood and parish support. It postponed a final vote until July 15.
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Mike White, a lawyer for the diocese, argued the old school cannot be affordably refurbished and said the student housing project is the best and most financially viable use for that land. Others pointed out that additional parking spaces have been added and that the building’s size and scale have been reduced to address neighborhood concerns.
St. Francis Xavier parishioners countered that the building is still much too big for the space and said they will lose crucial church parking to the project. They said the diocese has turned a deaf ear to their issues.
Committee chair Ed Ford, himself a Catholic, was sympathetic.
“If this was my parish,” he said, “what you’ve done would be extremely offensive.”
Ford said he wants to try to meet with Archbishop Joseph Naumann and others before July 15 in search of a compromise.