Thank you to everyone who has emailed me personally in good faith and with thoughtful, respectful, and empathetic concerns for what the City Council and Planning Commission of PV may or may not be doing in relation to housing and zoning in our city. I thought I’d share a couple of recent responses that I’ve sent to Ward 3 residents with legitimate concerns about the already small lots in their neighborhood and the fliers with misleading and/or outdated information that are being left on doorsteps.
For background, I was a member of the Ad Hoc Housing Committee, and I did the work reviewing the seemingly hundreds of options that cities across the nation are considering to help the multiple housing crises affecting not just the greater KC metro, but the whole country.
What are we trying to solve? Well, for me personally, I’d like to solve:
- Seniors being pushed out of homes due to rising taxes and untenable property value increases
- Seniors being preyed on by developers who just want to give them the lowest price they can get away with.
- No “forever homes” left in PV after all accessible ranches are demolished and new homes are built above grade so they can all have extra-high ceilings in their basements and/or walk-out basements.
- Ever increasing housing prices – soaring over $1M now for new builds where once an attainably-priced home stood
- Lack of attainable rental property (yes, rental) in the form of single-family or multi-family to attract young workforce folks to plant roots here and to allow older residents to stay in their community when they don’t want the work of owning a home any longer but don’t want to leave their neighbors, friends, pharmacist, local grocer, etc. either. (I saw this with my grandfather a decade ago in another community, and it was heartbreaking to watch him have to leave what he’d always known.)
- Lack of “starter homes” to help young adults, couples, families get on the first rung of the home ownership ladder
- Lack of “Middle Income” housing to progress home owners up the ladder to the next bigger house but without having to jump up half a million dollars or more in price.
- Loss of green space due to new builds taking maximum lot coverage to pad developers’ bottom line
- Increased stormwater retention issues due to… maximum lot coverage to pad developers’ bottom line
- The detrimental effects of climate change by encouraging more walkable, bike-able communities in closer proximity to services and amenities, reducing our reliance on automobiles for short errands and activities.
- Loss of neighborhood scale with all the new builds soaring over their neighbors
- Loss of neighborly interaction and camaraderie as the new builds and changing times divide and alienate neighbors…
Now that last one isn’t all due to housing issues, but you know what I’m talking about.
Will all the housing recommendations work in PV? Probably Not.
Do I think the housing recommendations solve all these issues? No.
Do I think these housing recommendations are perfect? Absolutely Not.
Do we have to have the discussion and go through the process to see what we can do? 100% YES.
Here is an email response I sent recently:
We don’t know yet what the Planning Commission will come up with as viable for PV or for what areas of PV.
My interpretation is that small lots and denser areas won’t be able to change. Since you’re not adjacent to one of our commerce centers (the Shops, Hy-Vee), your neighborhood wouldn’t comply with our Village Vision 2.0 comprehensive plan as anything other than the R1 that it already is. Duplexes, triplexes, and more are only indicated for areas that are adjacent to those commercial areas as buffers between R1s and the commercial zone.
Regarding ADUs, small lots wouldn’t be much help for ADUs, because our Neighborhood Design Guidelines (last updated 2019 and we’re ready for another revision in my opinion) have maximum lot coverages, setbacks, height restrictions, and more that would preclude any additional living quarters on the lot in most situations. And if you and your neighbor are close enough to watch one another’s TVs, I think that wouldn’t be a possibility.
Once, and IF, the Planning Commission comes up with proposals for ADUs in R1, there will be specifications and rules the homeowners have to follow that we’ll all, residents and council people, be able to review before deciding if we’re For or Against the proposal(s). The Planning Commission is going to spend the next year researching and listening to our residents during public forums, and I look forward to seeing the process through, and also hearing from you and your neighbors on the topic, the whole way through.
Does City council want to fast track this voting process and the Planning Commission want to slow the process and have 3 public hearings through next June? City Council didn’t prescribe a schedule for this process. City Council had an 8 month-ish long ad hoc committee to research and discuss many, many options that began in October or so of 2021. The committee just published their final shortlist recommendations to the Planning Commission (PC) this summer. City Council (CC) didn’t create a schedule or timeline for the Planning Commission to spend on this, so the idea of us “fast track”ing it is FALSE. After the approval by CC to send to the PC (yes, it was unanimous after much discussion, because we all agree that the housing crisis in our country is something that EVERY city should be making an effort to research their options for helping), City staff proposed a PC timeline that they then took directly to PC for review. PC suggested a longer timeline and approved that by consensus (also unanimous, if I remember correctly). No one on the City Council disagrees with the PC approved timeline. It will be about a year long and will have 3 or more public forums for resident input. I am excited to see the process through.
Does City Council want to amend the City’s zoning regulations by right to allow multi family in single family neighborhoods without the typical review process? City Council has already made a good faith effort and voted to remove this recommendation from the list of recs sent to PC based on passionate public input. HOWEVER, the original recommendations were always limited by our Village Vision 2.0 comprehensive plan that says that duplexes, triplexes, and more density are only indicated for areas that are adjacent to our commerce centers (the Shops, Hy-Vee area, etc.) to serve as buffers between R1s and the commercial zone. For example, your address is smack-dab in the middle of neighborhood blocks, so higher density structures would never be approved.
Would Residents lose the right to be legally notified, attend a public hearing, and file a legal protest petition? This hasn’t been prescribed yet either. The only reason “by right” is in the recommendations is because that is how all of our city zoning is worded. You can build a shed in your yard “by right”; you can have a fence around your yard “by right”; you can now have chickens “by right”. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t still rules and regulations that homeowners have to follow, and it doesn’t preclude the PC from saying homeowners still need to notify their neighbors, etc.. The PC can still figure out what they want that to be, and my hope is that they can find a compromise between an actual homeowner’s personal property rights and how much or how little their neighbors’ input weighs in the process.
So, we don’t know yet what the Planning Commission will come up with as viable for PV or for what areas of PV. They being a quasi-judicial body, and the experts on these topics, I know and trust that they will come to a reasonable resolution to this process based on facts one way or the other.
In closing, the process to consider revisions to zoning of any kind is working exactly the way it’s supposed to. Public input is welcome. Hate, name-calling, badgering, and trolling are not. Being angry, snippy, sarcastic, demeaning, and generally unreasonable to our City staff is also not welcome. Without all of this behavior that is going on to scare residents and bully until someone gets their way, this whole process would be like business as usual in the ever-exciting world of city governance. 😏
- City Council makes recommendations with staff and public input.
- Planning Commission takes up the CC recs and reviews, researches, and makes proposals (or not) with staff and public input throughout.
- City Council takes up the PC proposals and reviews, researches and listens to more staff and public input.
- CC votes.
- All of this is done through the lenses of our Village Vision (now 2.0) comprehensive plan, our Neighborhood Design Guidelines, and existing applicable zoning.
Nothing nefarious. Nothing under cover of darkness. 🤦♀️
If you still have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or your other council members. We are, many of us, going through this process for the first time ourselves, and we want to make sure that we all understand it and land on the right solution for our community. 😊
Specifically, let us know which of these issues resonates most with you, and if none of those I’ve listed, then what issues are the most important to you in this discussion? We truly want to know. Don’t let others convince you that we don’t have your best interests at heart. We wouldn’t volunteer so much of our personal time and energy to this if we didn’t think we could contribute to making a better community for all of us together. Help us by providing your input. 🙂
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Update: 12/16/2022 to reflect “middle income” instead of “missing middle”.
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