When it all was said and done after three-and-a-half hours of proceedings Tuesday, one issue seemed to loom above all others in the Prairie Village Planning Commission’s consideration of the proposed Mission Chateau senior living community: the size.
After nearly two-and-a-half hours of comment from Prairie Village residents who opposed the project — including an extensive conclusion to the presentation of the Mission Valley Neighbors Association, which began its comments at last month’s meeting — the six members of the Prairie Village Planning Commission for the first time had a chance to respond to the plans the Tutera Group submitted to the city for approval.
And what was clear after a hour’s worth of feedback from the commissioners was that the size of the three-story, 384,000 square foot facility gave several of them pause.
Commissioner Dirk Schafer was the first to broach the issue, telling attorney John Petersen and Tutera Group principal Joe Tutera that the “elephant in the room is the size of the proposal.” Commissioners Randy Kronblad, Nancy Wallerstein and Ken Vaughn, the Planning Commission chair, all expressed concerns as well.
Wallerstein told the developers that she thought the three story design of the independent living portion of the facility was out of character with Prairie Village, particularly the single-story ranch homes common throughout the surrounding neighborhood.
Kronblad put it bluntly: “It comes down to: Why so big?”
Presented with such feedback, Petersen lobbied the commissioners to hold a work session on the plans in early July, hoping to get specific-enough commentary then to make satisfactory changes to the plans and bring the proposal back to the commission for a final vote in August.
Because the “public hearing” on the issue will remain open until the commission votes on the proposal, the Mission Valley-area neighbors will not be able to start circulating a formal protest petition for at least two months. Should the Planning Commission approve the project in August, the Prairie Village City Council would likely schedule its consideration of the issue at its first meeting in September.
Notable moments from Tuesday’s proceedings included:
- John Duggan of the Mission Valley Neighbors Association presented the commission with a calculation showing that Mission Chateau would only generate about $32,000 a year more for the city in property taxes than a 50-house residential development on the site would. In the context of a more than $30 million per year budget, he said, Mission Chateau simply wouldn’t be worth it for the city: “Don’t sell your soul for $32,000 a year. It doesn’t make sense for your city.”
- Duggan frequently suggested that the density of the Benton House project, where a 47,000 square foot senior living community replaced the 49,000 square foot Somerset Elementary School, should be the precedent for the Mission Chateau project — meaning the size of the facility would need to be reduced from 384,000 square feet to something closer to the size of the Mission Valley building, which is approximately 100,000 square feet.
- Petersen told the commission that, as presently presented, Mission Chateau would take 24 months to build.
- Tutera told the commission that his company had no plans on filing for non-profit status, and that his company had never sold one of its facilities to a non-profit entity, addressing concerns that Mission Chateau may try to obtain a status that prevented it from paying city property taxes.
- The MVNA’s Brian Doerr read the statement below from former Prairie Village Mayor and current senior living community resident Monroe Taliaferro, who strongly opposes the Mission Chateau proposal: