In its final meeting of the current term, the Kansas City Council on Thursday opted not to decide on a controversial plan for Catholic student housing on the site of the former St. Francis Xavier School.
Instead, the council called for a cease-fire between the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which wants the housing development at 53rd Street and Troost Avenue, and St. Francis Xavier Church and surrounding neighborhoods, which do not.
The council urged both sides to work with a mediator over the next month to try to find a compromise development that all sides can support.
“The best possible solution would be an agreement,” said Mayor Sly James.
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If the two sides can’t resolve their dispute, the new City Council that takes office Aug. 1 can vote on the existing student housing plan in late August or after that.
Patricia Jensen, an attorney for the diocese, said Thursday that she had just learned about the mediation and had no comment on the chances for a resolution within a month.
Vincent Gauthier, a parish representative, said he hopes the two sides can get past their fierce differences and find a project that is a “win-win.”
The diocese wants to replace the old school with an 85-unit, 237-bedroom residential building intended primarily for Catholic students at nearby Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Diocese representatives say the old school cannot be affordably renovated and the student housing project is the best and most financially viable use for that property, which the diocese owns.
But many parish members, plus neighborhood leaders, insist the school can and should be renovated for a new use. They also feel the housing project would be crammed into too small a space and would exacerbate the area’s existing parking shortage.
The city staff has said there is no good legal reason to deny the diocese’s proposal for its property. But the City Plan Commission, a citizens advisory group, has rejected the plan three times since 2012 because of the intense community opposition.