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Council Meeting Recap – 07/20/20

Posted by Bonnie Limbird

*This recap has been updated to include a link to the SMPost article about the belligerent anti-protester near Weltner Park last weekend. 7/24/2020

City Council overturned a Planning Commission approval of a residential rezoning request for Ward 6 on grounds of the 8 Golden Factors, heard an update from Chief Schwartzkopf on the latest peaceful demonstration in PV, and learned about the upcoming energy audit for PV public buildings. Read on for more.

This is the Prairie Village City Council meeting recap for Monday, July 20, 2020. You can see the full agenda and board packet HERE.

Council members present at roll call: Herring, J. Nelson, Selders, R. Nelson, Poling, Limbird, Myers, Reimer, McFadden, Graves, and Gallagher. (Mr. Runion arrived shortly after.)

Sorry for the length of this recap, folks. The Planning Commission section is really long.

Here are the highlights of this meeting:

Presentations

Presentation from the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce

Deb Settle, President/CEO of NEJC Chamber of Commerce, gave us an update on Northeast Johnson County businesses. The most memorable statistic was that most are seeing about 20-30% of their typical revenue. The Chamber is doing what it does best for these local businesses: “helping keep businesses and communities connected” to each other and to resources to help them during this unique time.

Committee Reports

Planning Commission

Chris Brewster, PV Planning Consultant, presented Council with information about the Planning Commission review of this rezoning request. The 7631 Reinhardt application twas sent back to the Commission by Council July 6th “to review the whole neighborhood holistically instead of taking up these re-zoning issues one property at a time (there are a few more coming). A holistic view is best practice for re-zoning considerations.” Council asked the Commission to look at Golden Factors 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8 in particular.

Not only did the Planning Commission send it right back to Council without a holistic review, but if you take a look at the agenda packet, you’ll see a letter from the applicant’s attorney in there asserting a 2018 rezoning approval as precedent (prior approvals are not to be construed as precedent) and threatening a lawsuit if this one isn’t approved. So… this topic was ripe for much discussion, hence the long post. The attorney letter is 6 pages long starting on page 22 of the packet, so take a look for yourself if you’re so inclined.

Councilwoman Nelson kicked off this most recent discussion with a thorough rundown of the Planning Commission meeting where they RE-reviewed this application. Then she made several points as to why she didn’t believe it meets certain (highlighted below) criteria of the 8 Golden Factors (click the link for more detail, but here is the basic list):

  1. The character of the neighborhood;
  2. The zoning and uses of property nearby;
  3. The suitability of the property for the uses to which it has been restricted under its existing zoning;
  4. Extent to which removal of the restrictions will detrimentally affect nearby property;
  5. Length of time of any vacancy of the property;
  6. Relative gain to the public health, safety and welfare by destruction of value of the applicant’s property as compared to the hardship on other individual landowners;
  7. Recommendation of professional staff; and
  8. Conformance with the Comprehensive Plan

Every council person spoke on this topic, stating reasons they felt this application did or did not meet some or all of the Golden Factors, and I think it’s helpful to understand the outcome of the vote by sharing them here:

  • Councilwoman Selders took exception with the Commission not addressing the holistic approach request.
  • Councilman Nelson noted that this area’s character is larger lots, larger houses, or potentially larger houses, and new housing can still be built there. His concern is the possibility of a much larger house there on a single R-1A lot as opposed to two somewhat larger homes on two smaller R-1B lots.
  • Councilwoman McFadden said she appreciated the additional Planning Commission review and their expertise in these matters.
  • Councilman Runion respectively disagreed with the idea that this rezoning would fit in with the neighborhood
  • Councilman Poling didn’t feel the Commission made a good faith effort to review the Factors in question during the meeting, nor did they consider taking the holistic approach recommended by the Council. He also disagreed with the premise that these lots need to be split to get reinvestment.
  • Councilman Herring noted that his vote will focus solely on this application and not based on previous application outcomes in 2018 on this street or upcoming applications. He welcomed redevelopment and reinvestment in our PV properties, and he thanked Moffitt for doing good work in several of our neighborhoods.
  • Councilman Gallagher stated that the homes in that area are not blighted, and he also concurred with much of what Ms. Nelson, Mr. Runion, and Mr. Poling said.
  • Councilman Graves said, basically, that he hesitated to speed up a development process already in place that residents (current and some very longtime homeowners) are already having trouble keeping pace with when it comes to reinvesting in their own homes in relation to their rising property values.
  • Councilwoman Myers inquired as to why we haven’t finalized Village Vision 2.0, yet? Our current Comprehensive Plan is extremely out of date (2006), and that is what the Planning Commission is obligated to refer to, so when will we complete that update?
  • Mayor Mikkelson called out two material differences between the 2018 request and this one: 1) the new Neighborhood Design Standards, and 2) in 2018 the lots were split into two 64′ wide lots and this would be for two 60′ wide lots making them the smallest lots on the street. He also disagreed with the Planning Commission’s stance on Factors 1, 2, 3, and 5.

My comments were that 1) Reinhardt is the least likely street on this block to be ideal for a rezone/lot split and not have it negatively impact the character of the street. That is because 87% of the parcels are compliant lots per their zoning type, with 90% of those compliant lots being R-1A. There are 3 non-compliant R-1A lots, and two R-1B (smaller) lots (from the previously mentioned 2018 split). (These counts are based on what I can see in Mr. Brewster’s plan views.) As opposed to one block over in either direction which are primarily R-1B (smaller) lots.

Reinhardt is an R-1A street, period, so throwing in two tightly packed R-1B lots with houses maximizing their extents, no matter how beautiful they may or may not end up being, will create one giant sore thumb for this street, thereby negatively affecting the character of the street. And 2) being zoned as R-1A on this street in this block still allows this property to be developed. There is no hindrance to reinvestment on this street.

These two comments touch on Factors 1, 2, and 3. In regards to Factor 5, I do not take as gospel that the house is already “uninhabitable” as the applicant stated. There are residents living there now, and the applicants also called the whole area “blighted” which was a gross misstatement, so I question their use of “uninhabitable” as well. Many people live and call that area home, and I think they’d be surprised and insulted by these statements.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that the house should be torn down. I don’t have an opinion on this property one way or the other. I personally am more a fan of renovating/investing in property slowly and in ‘Not So Big Houses‘. But I know without a doubt that some properties in Prairie Village are coming to the end of their lives.

Although this wasn’t pertinent to our vote at this time, several Council members also commented on, and were deeply disturbed by, the comments of a few of the Planning Commission members regarding respecting the developers investments and timelines and helping them be profitable. While we want to encourage and support local developers, it is not our job at the City to ensure their profitability. We can be partners, but our residents and community come first.

Councilwoman McFadden made the motion to approve the rezoning request, Ms. Myers seconded. However, as you can probably guess from the comments of each councilmember, the motion to approve failed 3-10 with the “yay”s coming from Ms. McFadden, Mr. Nelson, and Ms. Myers. This application dies.

On to other things…

Arts Council

I shared that the Arts Council has launched voting for the Art of Photography People’s Choice Award at vote.artspv.org. I also reminded them that an online store is available HERE. I encouraged everyone to take a look. Here are a few more of my favorites:

First Suburbs Coalition

Mr. Nelson shared that he and Mayor Mikkelson attended this MARC & UCS First Suburbs coalition meeting with other local municipal representatives. They discussed strategies for addressing the region’s housing challenges. The five strategies discussed were:

  1. Promoting knowledge sharing
  2. Preserving existing housing
  3. Increasing the amount of housing available
  4. Increasing the access to and availability for financing
  5. Enacting regulatory changes

One recurring theme throughout all of the strategy breakout groups was the desire for cities to focus on strategies to encourage and welcome diversity in the populations that make their cities homes.

Mayor’s Report

  • The good news is that Brighton Gardens is now 28 days past the last known onset of a COVID-19 case, so they are no longer deemed “active”.
  • Unfortunately, though, the COVID-19 infection rates overall are not going in the right direction. Continue to wear your mask and socially distance.
  • We continue to see efforts toward racial justice and equality in PV.
    • There was another rally and march in PV last weekend. The peaceful protesters marched from Weltner Park (by Hy-Vee) to 71st & Mission, where they occupied the intersection for 8 minutes and 46 seconds (the length of time that the now-fired Minneapolis police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck resulting in his death), and then returned to Weltner Park to hear speakers. The event itself went off without adverse incident. However, there was a protester OF the protest who was verbally abusive and physically menacing to PV residents and children at homes where anti-racist yard signs were displayed near the park where the rally took place.
    • *Note that there is another rally planned by the same group in the same park soon, and they have again alerted PVPD so they are aware.
    • There are also upcoming revisions to our Civil Service Review Board as suggested by initiatives like #8cantwait.
    • The Mayor and I are in conversation about adding an Arts Council show and/or event celebrating the diversity in our area through resident art.
    • PVPD is reviewing their “use of force” policy even though it already closely aligns with #8cantwait
    • And we are expanding our Implicit Bias training
  • Lastly, Niche.com has ranked Prairie Village as the #1 best place to live in Kansas AND the #1 best place to live in the greater KC metro area.

Staff Reports

Wes Jordan, City Administrator, said that soon the City will be able to submit requests for reimbursements to the County for COVID-related expenses, such as face masks, counter barriers, etc.. These reimbursements will come from the C.A.R.E.S. (‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding the County received from Congress. Our costs so far have been around $32,000 with additional costs coming soon for updates in the Council Chambers.

Lisa Santa Maria, Finance Director, updated us again on sales tax revenue. Still not as bad as feared. The compensating use tax is considerably outpacing its norm and mostly offsetting the downturn in traditional point-of-sale retail. In other words, people are still spending money, they’re just doing it in different ways, i.e. online.

Chief Schwartzkopf, reported that Dispatch received about 40 calls from residents during the above-mentioned rally last weekend, but many of them were positive comments about the overall PVPD response. This was a coordinated effort with Leawood PD and the JoCo Sheriff’s office. In retrospect, I should have asked, “what were the other calls about”. I’ll do better next time.

New Business

Consider amendments to Chapter 1 (Article 13 – Emergency Assistance and National Emergency Situations) of the Municipal Code

We voted unanimously to give the Mayor the ability to declare an emergency by proclamation. This amendment allows for local enforcement actions to preserve the health, safety, peace and/or order of the City in the case of any county, state, or federal health orders. If that occurs, the City Council must vote to approve or reject such a declaration within 7 days.

Council Committee of the Whole

Consider approval of agreement with Energy Solution Professionals for an investment-grade energy audit

The City is due for an update to the last energy audit completed 10 years ago by the same company, ESP. At that time, it was recommended to switch the City Hall campus to an advanced geothermal heating and cooling system, and that decision has been a big success.

This latest energy audit is also coming at an ideal time to review our indoor air quality in our buildings in light of COVID-19 concerns, as well as after our signing on with the Climate Action KC. They will also evaluate converting to LED again. ESP evaluated it last time, but LEDs still weren’t financially feasible, but now, 10 years later, they most likely will be.

Approved unanimously.

Thanks for hanging in with me!
I hope you found this engaging.

Just a Couple Reminders:

Residents and visitors are required to wear masks or cloth face coverings in Prairie Village and ALL of Johnson County as well as most of Kansas and the KC Metro on the Missouri side.


Upcoming Events

  • August 3rd – City Council Meeting, 6:00 p.m. on Zoom via Facebook Live which is accessible to ALL residents even if you don’t have a Facebook account.
  • August 4th – Planning Commission, 7:00 p.m.
  • August 12th – Arts Council Meeting via Zoom

👋

STAY WELL & enjoy the weekend!

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