Updated for ease of reading on 11/5… I hope. 😏
Thank you again 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 can always tell when another area has been flyer-ed with information in opposition to the city’s process or a new call to action has gone out on the Zuck-book, because we get an influx of emails to our firstname.lastname@example.org distribution list. It’s nice to hear from friendly residents that we’ve never heard from before, even if they’re in opposition, and it gives us an opportunity to engage with them and give more detail on what is happening.
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.
One of the reasons we created the committee is to try to solve an issue just like this one below. You can basically replace the city name with Prairie Village, and it’s us:
“The average young person who grew up in Levittown cannot afford to buy a home in the neighborhood. As a result, children are unlikely to return even though the community offers young families many benefits and conveniences.”Adapting the First Ring Suburbs to Today’s Family: Increasing Density in Levittown2
By Meri Tepper, Ted Porter, Ted Sheridan, John Buckley
And on to this week’s topic!
What does Village Vision 2.0 say about Housing Opportunity in the areas of Diversity and Density? These are direct quotes pulled from the document and many are duplicative as they stress the key ideas (FYI – pretty much all bold items below are my emphasis):
- Allow neighborhoods to evolve in ways that reinforce their defining physical characteristics, while also supporting the progressing needs of existing and future residents.
- Guide reinvestment in activity centers to support dynamic, walkable, and bike-able places with a diverse offering of commercial, civic, and living opportunities, while responsibly growing the sales and commercial property tax bases.
- Ensure the City’s development activities and investments create more community value than liabilities.
- Diversify the size, type, and price point of the housing portfolio in Prairie Village.
- Maintain the integrity of Prairie Village neighborhoods.
- Leverage the value of activity centers by supporting their evolution as a community destination with varied environments supporting residential, employment, and cultural spaces.
- Housing in Prairie Village is dominated by single-family (detached) houses, though there is a range of moderately-scaled multifamily house types proximate to commercial and civic areas, and along major streets. The majority of homes were built before 1970, and a rapidly increasing number of aging houses are being replaced, causing value in the city to increase. To mitigate the aesthetic and environmental impact of new houses on older neighborhoods, Prairie Village recently adopted new standards for residential development… Still, the community is in need of ways to fulfill the high demand for housing.
- Broaden the Variety of Housing Types. A diversified housing portfolio of compatible building and lot scales allows housing options to become more flexible over time and enables a broader range of price points that will expand housing access and economic mobility in the community.
- The Village Center provides a broad range of retail, service, entertainment, and civic uses, while also supporting accessory office and residential uses in a compact and walkable format.
- The proposed Development/Redevelopment Opportunities are conceptual and illustrate application of the Principles and Polices for specific areas of the city.
- The demographics of Prairie Village are changing, and its neighborhoods need to respond by providing a variety of living and community experiences that appeal to existing and future neighbors.
- Enable a wider range of compatible* housing types within neighborhoods, particularly where pedestrian access to employment opportunities, resources, and amenities can be improved.
This list is obviously incomplete, but if you want to read the whole document, you may find it HERE.
What kind of “neighborhoods” are defined in the Village Vision 2.0?
There are three basic neighborhoods in Prairie Village:
- Traditional Neighborhoods – consists of neighborhoods generally north of 83rd Street. This place type is characterized by narrow residential lots arranged along well-connected streetscapes with a mature tree canopy. A broader range of housing types is desired in these areas, including accessory dwelling units, duplexes, multi-unit houses, and rowhouses in appropriate* locations. Anticipated locations for expanding housing diversity may include sites fronting on Thoroughfares, Village Centers, or Village Greenspace. Accessory units may be integrated into neighborhoods where they do not disrupt the established neighborhood’s physical character*.
- Suburban Neighborhoods – consist of residential areas generally south of 83rd Street. This place type predominately provides single-family detached houses on relatively large lots, but may be diversified with duplexes, multi-unit houses, and accessory dwelling units in appropriate locations. Anticipated locations for expanding housing diversity may include sites adjacent to Thoroughfares, Village Centers, or Village Greenspace. Accessory units may be integrated into neighborhoods where they do not disrupt the established neighborhood’s physical character.
- Village Neighborhoods – provides the broadest range of housing types to accommodate the varied needs of Prairie Village residents. Village Neighborhoods are an alternative to conventional disconnected apartment complexes that exist within the community today. This neighborhood type is intended to provide a transition between more intense hubs of activity and less intense residential neighborhoods. The Village Neighborhood place type is encouraged adjacent to Village Greenspace, Village Centers, and Neighborhood Hubs.
*Note the areas that “new” types of developments (defined below) would be limited to, AND the latitude left with Planning Commission and City Council (and residents through public input) to determine “appropriate” and “character” and “compatible”…
See map below for locations of these types of neighborhoods, but pay special attention to the two red hues on the map. Those are:
- Village Centers (maroon red) – PV Shops, Corinth Square and Quarter, Hy-Vee, and Meadowbrook Shopping Center
- Neighborhood Hubs (light red) – areas of smaller less “developed/designed” commercial activity
Definitions for “new” types of developments (new-ish to PV, that is):
- Residential Courtyard: A small open space within development that is typically connected to the sidewalk and provides a direct connection to a residential building. Courtyards provide a semi-public gathering place to support adjacent uses. (Think Deauville Apts. on 75th east of Mission Rd.)
- Accessory Dwelling Unit: A small residential space that is accessory to a principal residential use on the lot, designed to maintain the architectural design, style, and appearance of the principal building. Examples may include carriage houses, attached ADUs, or interior ADUs.
- Townhouse / Twin Villa / Duplex: A residential building designed to accommodate two primary dwelling units in a neighborhood setting. Townhouse units that share a single common wall may be on a single lot, or it may be platted as separate lots along the common wall line subject to platting restrictions. All other townhouses should be on a single lot. Townhouses should have a scale, design and orientation of access and entrance features that maintain the appearance and form similar to a Detached House.
- Rowhouse (“Small Apartment”): A multi-unit residential building designed for 3-8 dwelling units within a neighborhood and sometimes mixed-use context. Rowhouses abut one another sharing an adjoined party wall. These units are conjoined however, each unit has its own private entry. Units may be on a single lot subject to common ownership restrictions or platted on separate lots along the common wall subject to platting restrictions.
- Multi-Unit House: A residential building designed to accommodate 3-4 primary dwelling units in a neighborhood setting. Units may be on a single lot, or it may be platted as separate lots along the common wall line subject to platting restrictions. Multi-unit houses should have a scale, design and orientation of access and entrance features that maintains the appearance and form similar to a Detached House.
- Small Apartment (4-12 units): A small-scale, multi-unit residential building designed on a small lot in a walkable neighborhood or mixed-use setting. The building is accessed by a common lobby entrance at building frontage, is designed with a compatible scale and frontage to surrounding residential building types, and arranged to integrate into the block structure of a neighborhood. Variants of this type are based primarily on building scale, lot size and context.
- Medium Apartment (More than 12 units): A medium-scale, multi-unit residential building designed on a medium-sized lot adjacent to walkable neighborhoods or within a mixed-use setting. The building is accessed by a common lobby entrance at building frontage, is designed with a compatible scale and frontage to surrounding residential building types, and arranged to integrate into the block structure of a neighborhood. Variants of this type are based primarily on building scale, lot size and context.
- Small or Medium Mixed-Use: A building designed primarily for street level retail or service or employment uses, where dwelling units or offices are accommodated on upper stories, or otherwise separated from the principal commercial function of the building.
Where are these “new” type of developments an option based on VV2.0?
- If a developer were to submit a plan to the Planning Commission for a “medium apartment”, it would only be approved in a “Village Neighborhood”, never in a Traditional or Suburban Neighborhood, and it would be subject to review for compatibility, lot coverage, setbacks, height, materials, etc..
- A “small apartment” could maybe go in a “Traditional Neighborhood”, but not the Suburban Neighborhood, but it would have to be adjacent to thoroughfares and/or Village Center/Neighborhood Hubs and it would still be subject to review for compatibility, lot coverage, setbacks, height, materials, etc..
The philosophy of these placements is to create transition and a buffer between our commercially-zoned areas (Village Centers and Neighborhood Hubs), and our residential neighborhoods to reduce noise, light pollution, loitering, etc. in the residential neighborhoods.
Can we learn from other cities’ successes and failures to make these opportunities successful for PV? YES!
Other cities that have implemented ADUs, for example, have ordinances with stipulations like the following that have raised owner property values and/or met other community goals like reducing traffic and pollution while still helping the overall housing shortage:
- Specify exactly which areas are applicable.1
- Only 2 ADU permits allowed per block per year1 (We could say just one based on our City size.)
- NO short-term rentals allowed (presumably meaning one-year minimum leases)1 – the ADU is intended to provide long-term housing for a household member, family, or tenant.3
- Minimum distance between structures3
- Only one ADU per parcel3
- Maximum height3 (doesn’t have to allow for same height as the primary dwelling; can be limited even lower)
We could also require in PV if we wanted:
- Principal dwelling or ADU must be owner-occupied
- Off-street parking must be provided for the ADU tenant
- The floor area of an ADU shall not exceed 10 percent of the primary dwelling floor area (or buildable lot area – TBD)
- New ADUs (not conversion of existing space) shall be required to meet International Energy Conservation Code 2021 without exceptions.
- and many other possibilities…
!! Remember, there are already short-term rentals in PV. Not many yet, but more in some areas than others. City staff have been tracking them for years already.
One part of these recommendations is to keep an eye on these properties and consider future ordinances like the above. We need to look at them closely and figure out what to do sooner rather than later. See this article about Kansas City and much of their attainably-pricing housing near the Plaza, Nelson-Atkins, and KC Art Institute areas being used for short-term rentals because of the high tourist-attractions there.
We don’t want that to happen in PV. And unlike the major teardown-rebuild boom here, we want to get ahead of it, not have to come in later to fix it.
Next time I’ll talk about the Neighborhood Design Standards and how they regulate development/building.
Again, here are questions I’ve asked myself during this process:
- 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.
In closing, the process to consider revisions to zoning of any kind is working exactly the way it’s supposed to. Public input is extremely welcome. The process goes like this:
- City Council (CC) makes recommendations with staff and public input.
- Planning Commission (PC) takes up the CC recs and reviews, researches, and makes proposals (or not) with staff and public input throughout.
- CC 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. 🙂
2Adapting the First Ring Suburbs to Today’s Family: Increasing Density in Levittown – http://buildabetterburb.org/adapting-the-first-ring-suburbs-to-todays-family-increasing-density-in-levittown/
3The City of Santa Cruz ADA Zoning Standards – https://www.cityofsantacruz.com/home/showpublisheddocument/84532/637584175422900000
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