Prairie Village governing body votes down Mission Chateau proposal, appeal possible

Polsinelli attorney John Petersen, an aggressive proponent of his client's Mission Chateau proposal for the past several month, let the implications of the Tutera Group's failed application  sink in as the deciding votes came in Tuesday.
Polsinelli attorney John Petersen, an aggressive proponent of his client’s Mission Chateau proposal for the past several months, let the implications of the failed application sink in as the deciding votes were cast Tuesday.

But for a move introduced by Prairie Village City Councilor Michael Kelly on Nov. 5, 2012, the impact of last night’s vote on the controversial Mission Chateau development would have been entirely different.

Seven of the 13 members of the Prairie Village governing body voted in favor of the project Tuesday — a simple majority enough to pass muster in every major Special Use Permit application case that’s gone before them previously.

But because Kelly last fall asked the council to consider adoption of an ordinance designed to give a voice to property owners whose land abuts proposed development sites, that simple majority wasn’t enough.

Prairie Village passed a new protest petition ordinance in January 2013. And the neighbors surrounding the Mission Chateau overwhelmingly supported such a petition last month. With a successful protest petition filed, the threshold for passage of the Mission Chateau Special Use Permit application became a supermajority of 10 votes — a supermajority that the Tutera group was not able to win to its side despite months of aggressive lobbying on behalf of the project.

It took more than five hours of presentations, procedural squabbling and public comment before the council finally got to the point of voting early Monday morning, but when the moment of truth finally arrived just before 1 a.m., the councilors didn’t need much time to deliberate. They had heard every argument on either side of the issue several times before.

Those who voted in favor of the proposal — Dale Warman, Ruth Hopkins, Steve Noll, Andrew Wang, Charles Clark and David Belz — told the city attorney during the roll call vote they believed the city’s Planning Commission had done its due diligence in recommending the project for approval.

But the councilors who voted against the proposal — Ashley Weaver, Michael Kelly, Laura Wassmer, Brooke Morehead, David Morrison and Ted Odell — cited concerns with the density and size of the 352,000 square foot proposal, with many saying they felt it didn’t match the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Mayor Ron Shaffer voted in favor of the proposal as well, breaking a 6-6 tie, but having no impact on the outcome.

With the votes tallied and the meeting closed, a shell-shocked Joe Tutera and his attorney John Petersen slowly made their way out of the still-crowded meeting room, their next move apparently unclear. Tutera could appeal the council’s decision in Johnson County district court and attempt to make the argument that the council acted unreasonably or arbitrarily. But, as city attorney Catherine Logan of Lathrop & Gage noted after the vote, it’s a burdensome case to make, with the court bringing in a presumption that the governing body acted in accordance with its own city guidelines.

Still, that legal maneuver – and perhaps others — appear to be on the table.

“We don’t agree with the decision, obviously,” Tutera said as he headed for the exit. “And we’ll be giving serious consideration to appeal.”

Members of the Mission Valley Neighbors Association celebrated after the governing body voted down the project Tuesday.
Members of the Mission Valley Neighbors Association celebrated after the governing body voted down the project Tuesday.
Joe Tutera (right in orange tie) listened as Councilor David Morrison explained his vote against Mission Chateau.
Joe Tutera (right in orange tie) listened as Councilor David Morrison explained his vote against Mission Chateau.