Prairie Village has undergone significant residential investment in recent years, and that’s a great thing! It shows that Prairie Village is a coveted location for home buyers. And why not? We have beautiful parks, great schools, and we’re a stone’s throw from the cultural centers of the Kansas City metro! Unfortunately, not all of our homes are holding up well (since many of them are 70+ years old!), and the ones that are don’t necessarily meet the needs of the families of 2019.
The neighborhood design standards have been adopted for renovations and new builds to preserve the character of neighborhoods in Prairie Village by reinforcing key patterns expressed through existing neighborhood streetscapes, building massing, and lot configurations. As your councilperson, one of my goals will be to maintain the diversity and affordability of our Prairie Village homes through city planning and these same neighborhood design standards.
The standards, or guidelines as they are often referred, focus on a number of important design elements affecting compatibility of a new home within established neighborhoods. The following basic design components are critical to neighborhoods in the city.
Primary Design Requirements
Building & Impervious Surface Coverage
Impervious means not allowing fluid to pass through.
Building coverage addresses the overall volume of 3-dimensional structures permitted on a lot. It is aimed at regulating scale and massing. Impervious surface coverage addresses the extent of lot covered with surfaces that cannot infiltrate water (like driveways, patios, etc.). It is aimed at regulating stormwater runoff.
The frontage area is critical for maintaining the relationship between a home and the public streetscape, commonly referred to as “curb appeal”. Well-designed frontages create consistency along neighborhood streetscapes which better accommodates a variety of architectural styles and a variety of building sizes.
Neighborhoods in Prairie Village are overwhelmingly characterized by street trees. Along many local streets, public space is lined and enclosed by the mature street trees making up a large proportion of the city’s tree canopy. The adopted standards are intended to reinforce and maintain this important characteristic of Prairie Village neighborhoods. Maintaining this canopy, filling in gaps, and planting new trees years in advance of older mature trees disappearing is crucial to preserving this important feature.
Massing: Wall Planes
Massing is a term in architecture which refers to the perception of the general shape and form as well as size of a building.
Massing that breaks down the building volume into smaller components can reduce both the perceived and actual volume and scale of the house. Reduced massing improves the relationships of buildings to the streetscape, to the lot, and to adjacent houses. Application of different massing techniques can create diversity and interest along the streetscape, and add points of emphasis for quality design.
Windows and doors create human-scale connections between buildings and the spaces around buildings. The location and design of window and door openings can add interest to buildings, break down wall planes, add depth and texture to facades, and create points of emphasis and quality design.
Massing: Building Foundations
Foundation standards balance the need for proper drainage at the foundation, the appropriate grading of the site, and the overall siting and massing of the building as it relates to the streetscape and to adjacent buildings.
Garage massing refers to the proportion and total area of the garage’s building face, and its relationship to the main mass. The placement, extent, and size of the garage can have significant impacts on the character of a neighborhood or “curb appeal,” particularly when similar patterns are repeated across multiple lots along the streetscape.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few of the most common questions asked about the neighborhood design standards.
Who is impacted by these new regulations?
Reviewers will apply these regulations whenever a new residential home is built, when 200 square feet or more is added to an existing home’s building footprint, or when construction activity occurs on a residential home that alters the structure of the front elevation or roof. Any existing home that does not comply with the new regulations will be considered a legal, non-conformance and will not be required to come into compliance with the new regulations.
How do these new standards affect existing homes that want to do an addition?
If the addition is under 200 square feet, these standards will not come into play. If the addition is over 200 square feet, the standards would need to be met only on the portion of the home that is being improved.
What can I do to find out more about the construction happening on my street?
Beginning February 1, 2019, the new standards require that the owner for any teardown/rebuild project provides notice to property owners within a 200 feet radius that the plans have been filed at City Hall. This notice must also include contact information for the contractor and owner of the property. If you’d like to see the plans that have been filed, you can view them in person at the Codes Department in City Hall, located at 7700 Mission Road. Permitted construction hours are 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to midnight on weekends. If you notice a violation of this ordinance, please report it to the Police Department immediately at 913-642-6868.
Do these new standards prohibit certain types of architecture in Prairie Village?
No; all types of architecture will still be allowed in the City under these standards. The committee that worked on this was cognizant that there are many different styles of architecture throughout the City, and they looked at several different types of houses to ensure that these new standards would still allow all types of homes.
Instead of regulating architectural style, these standards will add design requirements that break up large wall planes, limit the size of garages, and ensure green-space is adequately preserved to create a better relationship with the streetscape and the look/feel of the neighborhood.
These FAQs originally appeared here.
So, have we experienced any unintended consequences from adopting the neighborhood design standards?
The current version of the neighborhood design standards haven’t been in place long enough to know what the downsides are yet. The majority of houses under construction right now received their permits under the previous phase that ended January 31st, 2019, so we’re not seeing much change yet in the massing or overall height of the finished homes. Give it another 4-6 months, and then we can truly see the benefits or downsides of the standards in the houses themselves. I suspect further definition of terms and clarifications may be required, but I’m withholding judgement for now.
Are builders investing less in Prairie Village? I read in the Shawnee Mission Post that we’re moving from an abnormally long seller’s market to a buyer’s market in PV. There are more houses on the market, they’re taking longer to sell, and buyer’s are taking their time before writing offers. So it may be difficult to differentiate this natural shift in the market from any affects that may occur due to the design standards over the same time period. I am curious about this one though.
Do homeowners feel stymied by these standards? I haven’t heard of anyone not investing in their home because of the standards, yet. I’d love to hear about it if they have.
I know a lot of these design standards sound technical and complicated (try reading the actual zoning language!), but an experienced, diligent, and creative architect will help incorporate these elements to fit in with the design of your home and still give you multiple options to choose from. 😉
Overall, they are a good guidelines to have in place for the majority of home projects, and our Prairie Village neighborhoods will be better for them. And for those few projects that have unique circumstances that would create a hardship to the homeowners, Prairie Village has a well-established process in place through the Planning Commission for requesting variances! See section 19.54.030 of the Zoning Regulations.
Have a great weekend, neighbors!
Your friendly PV Ward 3 Council Candidate,