Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Overlay district recommended to council

March 6, 2008

A proposed plan to guild development in old-town De Soto got a new name and other changes when adopted Feb. 26 by the De Soto Planning Commission, but the basic concept of relaxing regulations to encourage investment in the city's core remained.

Before recommending the plan to the De Soto City Council, planning commissioners approved Richard Hemphill's recommendation the document be called the Uptown De Soto Overlay District. The city council is to consider the overlay district at its March 20 meeting.

The overlay district will apply to that part of the city east of Kickapoo Street and the Sunflower railroad tracks between the Kansas River and Kill Creek.

In approving the overlay district, commissioners and city staff answered questions raised during a public hearing regarding the purpose of the proposal and the status of the downtown revitalization plan that was the genesis of the overlay district.

In response to a question from David VanDuesen, 8200 Wea, about the goal of the overlay district, Planning Commission Chairman Kevin Honomichl said the city's regulations developed with "green" field sites in mind made it difficult to redevelop in existing neighborhoods.

To remedy that, the overlay district relaxes regulations within the district. It was also thought that by not requiring suburban or green field standards redevelopment in the overlay district would better conform to the character with the neighborhood by not paving back lawns to acquire a needed number of parking spots or building 8-foot fencing to screen the upgraded property.

In addition to parking and fencing, the overlay would relax regulations in the downtown district on the minimum area for lots, setbacks, density, bulk (size of buildings), landscaping and drainage.

One overlay district provision also makes it possible for developers to increase the percentage of property covered by buildings up to 25 percent with a developer contribution to the city capital improvement fund. That money could help pay for improvements Marty Shukert, the designer of the city's downtown revitalization plan, envisioned, such as a small park at the northwest corner of 83rd and Wea streets, a central processional boulevard and a half-block long water cascade on the west side of Wea Street south of 83rd Street.

Loya Beery, who owns the building that is now home to the Bleu Tomato and the Dollar General, asked if the city was doing anything to implement the revitalization plans Shukert devised.

Planning for downtown streetscape upgrades - which is the first phase of the revitalization plan - is scheduled for this year and with construction anticipated in 2009, city engineer Mike Brungardt said.

The most significant change planning commissioners made to the proposal was one suggested by Mayor Dave Anderson and city council members when they discussed a draft of the overlay district last month.

The draft would have opened up the complete district to commercial revitalization. The approved plan would limit commercial to to an area that coincides to a enterprise zone the city adopted in the 1990s.

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