By Holly Cook
The Prairie Village Homes Association residents who took advantage of the opportunity to share their thoughts with city staff about Prairie Village’s proposed residential design guidelines at the first of three community meetings Thursday expressed concern that the proposal may not do enough to protect against oversized homes and that material restrictions may be needed to help keep the aesthetic integrity of their neighborhoods intact.
Prairie Village resident and developer Mark Eddy said he was concerned the guidelines do not address the common complaint about the large size of new homes and that some restrictions were too lenient. Eddy was concerned builders would “get creative” to meet the guidelines, possibly resulting in unattractive properties. Eddy said recommendations must address building materials and acknowledged that while an architecture review board may not be a popular solution “we will have to get to that point.”
With a show of hands, the majority of attendees agreed they would like to see material restrictions added to the guidelines.
Assistant City Administrator Wes Jordan and city planning consultant Chris Brewster emphasized that the city wants to avoid creating an architecture review board, like the body in place in Mission Hills, or implementing any type of material requirements that could open the door for litigation.
Architect Bruce Wendlandt, who assisted with creating the guidelines, said he was opposed to limiting architecture style and design and also said the city could not afford an architecture review board. Wendlandt said that new builds will attract attention even if they aren’t much larger in size to neighboring homes.
“New is new and it will get your attention,” Wendlandt said.
Another resident said he was okay with bigger new builds if they expand in depth and not height and commented that having “$600,000 to $700,000 houses coming into the neighborhood” was a “good problem to have.”
Residents questioned whether the guidelines would limit new builds to Cape Cod-style homes and emphasized the importance of having a variety of architecture in neighborhoods.
Architect and Prairie Village resident Katie Trenkle said the requirements were not intended to promote only Cape Cod-style builds. Trenkle assisted with drafting the guidelines.
“This is about respecting our neighbors and enhancing our neighborhoods and our property values,” Trenkle said.
Residents also voiced concerns about drainage issues being caused by new construction and the possibility these issues could cause flooding in original homes.
Jordan acknowledged that drainage was a common complaint and highlighted that the guidelines would require new builds to provide a grading plan for the property, a storm water study and a final grading permit. Expansions to current homes would also trigger a lower tier of drainage-related requirements.
The regulations as presented Thursday would address zoning and design elements of any new construction. Homes undergoing renovations adding more than 200 square feet, making certain roof alterations, or expanding more than 30 percent of habitable space would also be subjected to the guidelines.
Massing standards, front façade elements, entrance features and garage limitations are addressed in the regulations. The allowed height for homes in the R-1B zone — which encompassed much of the PVHA area — would decrease from 35 feet to 29 feet and new builds in this zone could not be more than two stories.
The façade standards are meant to make a home look smaller and have less of a “big box” appearance and include requirements for windows, dormers and gables. Jordan said these stipulations were designed to address a common concern about wall massing.
Near the end of the meeting Jordan asked for a show of hands for those agreeing the proposed were “on the right track” and a majority of attendees raised their hands.
Two additional public meetings will take place at Prairie Village City Hall on Feb. 22 and March 2 at 6:30 pm.
Since 2010 there have been 65 new homes constructed and 58 teardowns in Prairie Village.