Mission Woods tables eminent domain action against Shawnee Mission Parkway building

Mayor Robert Tietzie (at end of table) and other Mission Woods councilors discuss the condemnation.
Mayor Robert Tietze (at end of table) and other Mission Woods councilors discuss the condemnation.

The Mission Woods City Council Tuesday tabled an ordinance that would have authorized condemnation proceedings against a building along Shawnee Mission Parkway. The move came after the building owners presented renovation plans and a structural report that shows the building is sound.

The middle of the three buildings on Shawnee Mission Parkway is the subject of the dispute.
The middle of the three buildings on Shawnee Mission Parkway is the subject of the dispute.

The building at 1968 Shawnee Mission Parkway has been vacant for approximately 10 years and has been a subject of the condemnation discussion since October. The land and building are owned by different entities. The two ownership entities said they did not learn about the condemnation action until December when a building permit process for the planned renovation began. The council had passed its first condemnation-related ordinance in early November.

In February, the council asked the building owners to provide more information about the integrity of the building and the renovation plans. Architect John Wind showed plans Tuesday for a $994,000 project that included changes to the exterior, landscaping, roof, mechanical systems and interior.

Wind also provided an engineering report that showed no structural issues or water penetration. In addition, an environmental report found no problematic environmental conditions. A new roof was recommended in the reports along with replacement of an exterior staircase.

The condemnation action is unusual because the city entered an agreement with entities association with Karbank Real Estate, owners of the buildings on each side of 1968, to fund the condemnation and acquisition and because of the small size of Mission Woods. The city has only four commercial buildings and a population under 200 residents.

As it did at its January and February meetings, the council went into executive session after the architect’s presentation. The stated reason for the closed session was to receive advice from the city attorney under attorney-client privilege.

On its return to open session, councilors began expressing their views on the condemnation. Most suggested progress had been made and that they wanted to see the building rehabilitated. Councilor Cory Fisher said the presentation gave him the information he had been looking for and he did not “want to get in the way (of the progress).” Mayor Robert Tietze said he had fielded calls from residents all day, most wanting to see the city proceed with the condemnation.

At one point, Tietze asked if the owners would agree that their investment in renovation be exempted from any future condemnation settlement. Spencer Thomson, attorney for the building owner rejected that idea, saying it was not in his client’s interest. Thomson later told the council that the owners want to be cooperative, but “you are holding us to a higher standard (than other property owners). Thomson said, “(we believe) you don’t have the authority (for condemnation).”  Thomson said many of the years the property was vacant was during a depressed market. The owners will do their best to get tenants, he said.  Removing one of its four commercial buildings from the tax rolls is not in the city’s best interest, he suggested.

Tietze suggested the council “needs to reconsider moving forward with condemnation.” The vote to table the ordinance was unanimous.