PV Council votes to affirm residential uses for Mission Valley site

Mission Valley Neighbors Association members held up signs opposing a taxpayer-funded comprehensive planning process for the school site.

Before a crowd of more than 225 packed into the SM East cafeteria, Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer on Monday broke a tie vote to approve a measure affirming city support for the current land uses allowed by the Mission Valley Middle School site’s R-1a zoning — a designation that allows housing, a school, a church or a senior living facility to operate on the site.

The vote appears to have killed a proposed $80,000 to $90,000 taxpayer funded comprehensive planning process that would have included extensive public input about how Mission Valley and much of the surrounding area could be developed in the future.

The move came after a lively meeting of the City Council during which members of the Mission Valley Neighbors Association voiced intense objection to the idea of mixed-use development on the site, members of the city council suggested that a considerable amount of misinformation was circulating about the proposed comprehensive planning process, and RED Development principal Dan Lowe made a last-minute appearance at the microphone that set the crowd murmuring.

Lowe, who lives in the neighborhood just south of Mission Valley, addressed the council after more than half a dozen speakers took to the podium laying out their reasons for opposing spending money on the public input process — including the fact that developers are often expected to foot the bill for such things as part of the cost of doing business.

Lowe told the crowd that he had initially removed RED from the funding mix for the planning process to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“But we’re more than happy to pay for the process if that’s what the city wants,” Lowe said.

RED Development principal Dan Lowe was the last person to take the podium during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Lowe also said that a mixed-use proposal including a specialty grocery store, retail space and commercial space that had been mentioned in Prairie Village city documents was one of “probably 100 ideas” the firm had discussed.

“There is also the discussion of selling the building to Kansas City Christian,” he said. “There is also the discussion of selling to a church. There is the discussion of making it strictly a senior living community.”

Regardless of what ideas may be floating around the property’s ownership group, with the council vote on Monday, it now appears that the development mix will have to adhere to a relatively limited set of lower-density uses.

Assistant City Administrator Dennis Enslinger said city staff would be working to draft language to amend the city’s current comprehensive plan to affirm support for R-1a uses on the site. He said the language would go before the Planning Commission for public discussion before it could be adopted by the city.

Council members Ruth Hopkins, Michael Kelly, Andrew Wang, Diana Ewy Sharp and David Morrison voted against the measure (though Morrison clarified that his no vote was an objection to the fact that no price was attached to the motion and that he supports R-1a zoned uses for the site). Council members Laura Wassmer and Dale Warman were absent from the meeting. Many of the council members who voted against the measure said they felt it was premature to act before the city had time to explore other options for funding a more extensive public input process.

“We’ve jumped the gun, said Wang. “There was no reason to determine tonight that R-1a is the only thing that should go on that site.”

Brian Doerr, a local attorney who played an instrumental role in organizing opposition to the taxpayer-funded comprehensive planning process, said the Mission Valley Neighbors Association was pleased with the outcome of the evening, and that the group intended to remain involved with both the city and the developer as plans for the site evolved.

“Density is really the issue,” Doerr said. “When you start talking about retail and commercial, that’s what gets everybody gagging.”

More than 225 people crowded into SM East's cafeteria for the meeting.