Archive for Thursday, October 27, 2005

Higher quality southside development advocated

October 27, 2005

De Soto's new neighbor took advantage of a De Soto Planning Commission rezoning application to express concerns about the nature of development south of Kansas Highway 10.

Sunflower Redevelopment LLC executive director Kise Randall attended Tuesday's De Soto Planning Commission meeting asking that a planned development rezoning on a four-acre lot at the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 95th Street be rejected.

Sunflower Redevelopment was notified of the pending rezoning from general business, as were all immediate neighbors.

Planned development zoning is tied with a site plan that is considered by the planning commission and city council as a package. The rezoning application submitted by Dustin Baker and Mike Drennon was for a 393-unit self-storage facility and future 6,100-square-foot retail building.

The application earned city engineer Mike Brungardt's recommendation for approval on the 12 points of the Golden criteria that planning bodies must consider. The mixed-use site plan was appropriate for an area that has two contractor yards and an apartment complex, he said.

Baker told the planning commissioners the self-storage units would offer something new to De Soto with its climate-controlled units.

"There's nothing like it in a 15-mile radius," he said.

Baker and Drennon said they wanted and had presented a quality development. The ends of storage buildings with exposures facing the outside of the property will be dressed with masonry, as will one front exterior. The property will be circled with wrought-iron fencing with stone pilasters and a berm would screen the storage units from Lexington Avenue until that function was taken over by a future retail building.

Prefacing her remarks with acknowledgement that Baker and Drennon had submitted plans for a storage unit that went above those normally associated with such complexes, Randall addressed the rezoning as the broad issue of protecting the Lexington Avenue gateway of both De Soto and Sunflower from hodge-podge development and site specific issues.

The self-storage facility was wrong for a prominent site on the gateway of both De Soto and Sunflower, she said. The site leant itself to high-traffic volume types of uses while the proposal was a low-traffic type of use, she said.

But on a larger scale, the planning commission should open its review of the comprehensive plan for the area immediately west of De Soto planned for this year to include the gateway areas south of K-10, Randall said.

"It seems like we are at a time when it might be appropriate to look at the whole area," she said. "I understand the area is a hodge-podge, but it takes time to turn a ship around. Sometimes you just have to grab the wheel."

As for the specific application, Randall challenged it on four points of the Golden criteria. Among those were its suitability with existing infrastructure, compatibility with neighbors and -- in what Commission Chairman Kevin Honomichl called the big picture -- compatibility with the city's comprehensive plan.

On Wedensday, Baker again stressed the lengths the partners had taken to make the self-storage a quality development. Roofs were painted green so that they blended with the landscape and those walls not covered with masonry would be painted beige, he said.

"My feeling is we're trying to bring something to De Soto that contributes something to the tax base with the present utility connections," he said. "We tried to make it look like a very first-class facility that we found there was a great demand for.

"I think it will generate tremendous tax revenue for the city."

After discussion Tuesday, planning commissioners accepted Brungardt's report. As for compatibility with future development at Sunflower, they said plans for Sunflower were so speculative there was no basis for deciding its compatibility with the application.

"If the property across the street was developed right now, maybe it wouldn't be compatible," said planning commissioner Richard Moberly. "I've never heard when Sunflower will be developed. When will that be? Thirty or 40 years? By that time this may have outlived its usefulness and ready to be torn down to build a high-rise Marriott."

Still, planning commissioners expressed reservations about the nature of the development. Commissioner Richard Hemphill initially indicated he would vote against the application out of a gut feeling it was wrong.

"Sitting up high on the highway, looking down on it, it looks like the backdoor," he said. "This is our front door. We're treating it like our backdoor."

Hemphill overcame his reservations, supporting a unanimously approved motion to approve the rezoning with minor stipulations.

After the decision, Randall said she realized Sunflower Redevelopment brought its concerns late in the application process for the project. It was important that the city and Sunflower Redevelopment kept talking about how the area developed and fit with the overall vision both have for the gateway to De Soto and Sunflower.

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