Guest Commentary

Rezoning headache makes Overland Park resident feel powerless

Powerlessness is a terrible thing to feel. Trying to work with the Overland Park City Council, the city planning commission, the developer and a high-powered lawyer made me feel powerless.

Property owners, if there is undeveloped land within 200 feet of your property, pay attention. The onus is on you to read rezoning signs, no matter how tattered and illegible. You are required to receive a postcard or certified letter 22 days prior to a planning commission meeting notifying you that a new development is about to be approved. Read it. Attend the meeting. Claim your power.

We got no postcards or registered letters but we got a tattered yellow sign on the least traveled thoroughfare. I parked my car, crossed the sidewalk and walked into a field to read: “Rezoning Pending. Rez 2017-118. Public hearing at city hall before planning commission on February 12 at 1:30.” There was no phone number to call and no description of the project.

Too late, we discovered that this particular sign was code for: Price Brothers Developers proposes 6 story apartment building along Metcalf and 127 and Foster. Metcalf parking will sit 15 feet off the road. Buildings along public streets are supposed to be no more than 125 feet long but this one’s special so we’ll let them make it 435 feet long. And yes, there are supposed to be just 29 units per acre but we’re giving them 39.4 units per acre. And yes, the city staff acknowledges that the length deviation is extreme.

How do we claim the power to change this notification process so that property owners can be aware? First, get a lawyer. To change rezoning renotification requirements, we have to address Kansas Statue K.S.A. 12-757 and our corresponding city code provision Section 18.140.080. Then there is the publication provision in Section 18.140.070 and property posting requirement Section 18.140.090. Municipal Code 18.140.080 notices to surrounding property owners seems to empower the property owners.

It is recommended than an applicant (the developer) hold a neighborhood meeting with surrounding property owners, homes associations and neighborhood groups prior to any required public hearing at the planning commission. The purpose of this neighborhood meeting is to create a productive and cooperative relationship with neighboring property owners.” The mayor stripped us of that power when he said the process is recommended but not required. The developer gets to decide.

Here are five ways the City Council of Overland Park can empower property owners.

1. Communicate through neighborhood association boards within a one-mile radius and let them know that a development is being proposed. Association boards call 913-895-6339 to register.

2. Post notices in next-door Deer Creek.

3. Require council members to communicate rezoning requests to their wards.

4. Improve signage at the site. Motorists have to see them.

5. Utilize the quarterly OVERview magazine published by the city.

The supposition that a development of this size and scope impacts only those who live within 200 feet is false. It impacts everyone who frets about water runoff, traffic, and a drastically altered landscape and property value.

Janet Milkovich and her husband Jim returned to Overland Park a year ago after a 12-year stint in Chicago. She recently retired from a rewarding career in the nonprofit sector.