Countryside East gets final approval on neighborhood design standards

A neighborhood project more than two years in the making finally came to fruition Monday when the Prairie Village City Council approved a Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District for Countryside East, the neighborhood in the northwest corner of the city.

The overlay district sets design guidelines for new construction or remodeling, primarily as it pertains to the scale of a home. It does not govern any interior changes or set any particular architectural style limits. Many of the overlay guidelines are already contained in the neighborhood’s deeded restrictions. The guidelines give a clearer definition of restrictions, often including drawings to illustrate the points, according to neighborhood committee members. Fifteen specific points are contained in the Countryside East guidelines.

Another key change is that the city rather than the neighborhood board will review building plans for compliance on items in the overlay. The city previously passed an ordinance to authorize overlay districts in the zoning regulations and this week approved the specific Countryside East guidelines. Each neighborhood can craft its own guidelines under the model. Both the council and plan commission have approved the ordinance and guidelines.

Countryside East was designated as a test neighborhood when it began the project, which grew out of discussions among several city homes associations. Several neighborhoods, like Countryside East, contain covenants that limit building size to 1.5 stories, but that language was found to be unenforceable after a court ruling a few years ago. The homes associations, and Countryside East in particular, were looking for a way to adequately define building restrictions to have some control over tear downs or major remodels that would preserve its character. Allowing families the flexibility to remodel older homes to meet modern styles also was a goal for Countryside East.

An appeals process includes participation by representatives of the neighborhood. The complete Countryside East guidelines can be found here. Countryside East is generally bounded by Nall and Roe from 63rd to 67th Street. The project has received widespread support at several Countryside East neighborhood meetings in recent years.

(Full Disclosure: Dan Blom, co-publisher of Prairie Village Post, was chairman of the Countryside East Overlay Committee)