With classic estates dating back to the city’s formation, traditional design and aesthetics have been at the core of Mission Hills’ identity for nearly a century. But a lot has changed since J.C. Nichols first platted the city in the 1910s, and Mission Hills is looking to proactively address the changes the city is likely to see as its housing stock ages and requests for teardown/rebuild projects continue to land at city hall.
Last week, the city presented a slightly updated version of its comprehensive plan — the product of a year’s work between city staff and a consulting firm — to residents. And while the updated plan included only minor changes to the version first adopted in 1982 and tweaked since, the process of reviewing the document uncovered a number of burgeoning issues the city feels need to be addressed.
Among them, how to account for the advent of new technologies like solar panels and geothermal wells that are becoming more and more popular in high-end homes. The city is also struggling with how to deal with modern building materials not explicitly approved in its current guidelines, items like composite materials for decking and openings.
“There is a move away from wood windows and garage doors to modern materials,” said Jill Clifton, the city planner. “The question the city has to address is do we want to allow things that look different because they last longer?”
Such issues aren’t likely to subside anytime soon. Mission Hills saw $33,238,510 worth of construction projects completed in the city in 2015. Only 2007, when the total was $34,185,033, saw more building activity in the last decade. There were eight house demolitions in Mission Hills in 2015 and nine in 2014. At present, there are 15 new-home construction projects under way in the city.
Clifton said the city’s planning commission will be forming sub-committees in the coming months to address what guidelines might be helpful in preparing Mission Hills for the future while keeping the city’s character intact.
Clifton also noted that the consultants’ review of census data showed that Mission Hills’ population is getting older, and the city will face a challenge of how to attract and retain younger families.
“There is the goal of protecting our statuary and public spaces,” Clifton said. “They will also be looking at the issue of sidewalks and biking trails to improve safety.”