Prairie Village City Council candidates on the issues: Regulating new construction in the city

Increasing tear downs have led to concern about building guidelines.
The number of tear downs is increasing in Prairie Village.

Each year we collect questions for candidates for public office from shawneemissionpost.com readers. Today we start with the responses to those questions from candidates for Praiire Village City Council. Today’s question is:

What are your views on the city’s role in regulating new construction in the city, including the tear-downs?  Please be specific. Should different restrictions apply to the south end of the city from the north end because of varying lot sizes?

Ward 1

Lee Duong
Lee Duong

Lee Duong
If elected, I would not be representing my own thoughts or opinions but that of Ward 1. I therefore believe that perhaps the questions should read: What do the constituents of Ward 1 want? As I set out to get to know Ward 1 constituents through walking the ward, and attending all of the open discussion groups, this was one of the many questions I asked. I truly believe everyone I personally met, as well as myself, all shared a common goal to continue to preserve and enhance the attractiveness, desirability, and quality of life in Prairie Village. This “charm” I believe is reflected not only in housing, but also the various locally owned merchants, the mix of young and established residents, as well as singles and families, the school systems, the green spaces and much more.

It appears there is a general consensus with mass and scale – in essence, not wanting a tear down or rebuild “towering” over existing home.  Constituents are equally concerned for code enforcement about run down homes.  Constituents also wanted to maintain some continuity and charm of homes. I believe some of these concerns seem to be well addressed in proposed restrictions on ridge height, roof pitch, setbacks, and spacing. I believe these same restrictions could apply proportionally to both lot sizes.

That being said, I strongly believe in one’s right to have design flexibility to customize their home to meet their individual needs and tastes. Being single, my needs are dramatically different from that of a growing family who want to stay in Prairie Village to attend the best schools in our area, and also from the senior who may have lived here for their entire life and want and deserve to be able to do continue to do so.

The question remains, what other specific design elements should we focus on and actually regulate? In my discussions, many had not previously heard of some of the more specific aspects of the amendments related to architectural design. This is the area where it appears more discussion may be needed so that we can arrive at a set of regulations that meets the needs, desires, and viewpoints within our community about how to best preserve the quality, and unique character of Prairie Village.  Education is power and part of our important job in serving our constituents is to help inform the electorate about pending decisions the Council will make that have a direct impact on the present and future of our community.

Again, I thank the Prairie Village Post for this opportunity to discuss the issues and those who are taking the time to read it. I ask for your support, but above all I ask that you VOTE  on April 5th and have a voice. duongforpv.com

Ashley Weaver

Ashley Weaver
Ashley Weaver

I am very supportive of the city playing a role in the establishment of basic design guidelines.

It’s important to understand that much of this discussion originated as the result of the PVHA losing a lawsuit against a builder in 2007. As a result, the court judge ruled that the PVHA had no grounds to enforce their one-and-one-half-story restriction within its neighborhood. This court ruling left much of our ward open to the delight of developers. As such, a resident driven initiative was turned over to the city and has resulted in the proposed design guidelines that were developed by a dedicated volunteer committee consisting of Prairie Village residents who are builders, architects, and volunteers in coordination with city staff.  These proposed guidelines address the mass and scale of homes to neighboring properties.  Guidelines for R1-A lots (larger lots in south PV) would be different than guidelines for R1-B lots (smaller lots in north PV) using the proposed sliding scale for zoning and lot size.

It’s important as we work to establish thoughtful guidelines to recognize that our city and even our ward is very diverse. The challenges that we face in Ward 1 are different than the challenges faced in other parts of the city. Any solution must take our diversity into consideration.

My goal as your councilperson has and continues to be respect for the residents and our community, where neighbors work together in partnership with our city. We live in a beautiful city. It’s our job to be good stewards of the legacy that JC Nichols left to all of us when developing our nationally recognized and well- planned community. As such – I am asking to be reelected and for your continued support and vote on April 5th.  Please email me at AWeaver@pvkansas.com or visit my website at www.AshleyforPV.com

Ward 2

Ruth Hopkins
Ruth Hopkins

Ruth Hopkins
I have mixed feelings about establishing stricter buildings codes for residential tear-downs and rebuilds. On the one hand, many older homes are approaching 60+ years and have become functionally obsolete in today’s market. Old plumbing and electrical, lack of a second car garage, small or nonexistent closet space and master bedrooms are all items that current buyers worry about.

But the new construction must fit into existing neighborhoods. The new regulations need to find a balance between making a house bigger while still looking like they belong next to existing houses on the street.

I believe it will benefit PV in the long run if we find a balance that will keep current residents happy and bring new families into the neighborhoods. We have had several neighborhood and resident meetings in the past few weeks and staff will be bringing the results of these meetings for discussion very soon.

I think that basing the regulations on square footage of the lot adequately takes care of the problems that are created by the larger lot sizes in the south end of the city.

Serena Schermoly
Serena Schermoly

Serena Schermoly
It is my understanding that all the renovations and tear-down construction projects have complied with current codes and regulations of the City of Prairie Village. With the proper set-backs and enforcement of those codes, residents can express their personal tastes in building and construction.  As larger and more expensive homes are built and remodeled in our community, the tax base supporting the city also increases. With this increase comes an increase in services for our residents. 

I have been canvassing the neighborhoods in recent weeks.   The majority of those with whom I have spoken are not aware of the new regulations being proposed in our city.  I do not feel that the citizens of Prairie Village, including Ward 2, have a clear understanding of how these changes could affect them and their neighborhoods.  Three meetings appear to be inadequate in fully informing and educating the residents on the proposed changes.  

This is an important policy decision related to remodeling, building, or rebuilding of homes, and the right policy decision should apply to the entire city, not hand-picked neighborhoods. This policy will affect property values in our community therefore affecting every property owner in Prairie Village. Before we implement a policy of this magnitude, there are still questions that need to be answered. The citizens need to have a solid understanding of how this will affect them.
I have sat through every public meeting the city has had on this issue, and critical questions remain unanswered. We have seen what the differences are in the proposed versus the existing regulations, but we haven’t measured the real impact of those differences. What do the differences mean for a family who is forced to rebuild after a fire or other similar devastating event?  How will the Prairie Village economy be affected by attempting to control the size and appearance of new homes? How will these new regulations promote diversity in our economy? How will these new regulations restrict a homeowner’s right to remodel or rebuild his/her own property?
The City of Prairie Village is not a homeowner’s association, and we should not implement knee-jerk reaction policies that can significantly impact economic development and the future of our community. If we are going to change zoning and land use rules and regulations, it should be a community driven, not a complaint driven, process.

Ward 3

Andrew Wang
Andrew Wang

Andrew Wang
I think that some regulation of new construction beyond what exists in the current city code is definitely something to consider.  I believe that the process that we have embarked upon can yield a reasonable compromise between unbounded construction that erodes neighborhood cohesiveness and inflexibility that interferes with property owner creativity and self-expression and discourages renewal of our aging housing stock. Prairie Village is certainly one of the most attractive locations in the KC Metro to purchase a first home, to start and raise a family or to “age in place” in our later years.  Due to its lasting appeal, a premium is placed on the houses for sale here.  Much of that housing stock does not have the modern amenities that are available elsewhere in the metro at a lower price (though those areas are certainly bereft of the charm, educational opportunities and community atmosphere of Prairie Village).  Extensive remodeling and complete replacement of houses in our city is necessary for our neighborhoods to attract and keep growing, stable families.  For many of us on the council, specific discussion of the proposed guidelines is relatively new.  I have seen presentation to council a few weeks ago and I attended one of the community meetings as well.  I will look to further discussion with my colleagues and the critical input of my neighbors of Ward III to continue to inform my views.

Ward 4

Brooke Morehead
Brooke Morehead

Brooke Morehead
Prairie Village is noted for commercial, civic, public and residential development standards begun by J.C. Nichols and maintained by successive governing bodies.  The responsibility of this and future councils should be to insure that new or renovated structures are compatible with the surrounding neighborhood in terms of lot size and adjacent homes, whether in the northern or southern part of our city.

 

Ward 5

Courtney McFadden
Courtney McFadden

Courtney McFadden
Prairie Village should make every effort to ensure that we are maintaining the integrity in the look and feel of our community. We all have an interest in creating a charming community, however there is nothing charming about a dilapidated rundown house in need of a teardown. We cannot have regulations that are so restrictive that we discourage new construction in our city. Revitalization of Prairie Village will continue to be an important part of our growth plan for the future. We want people to continue to invest and move to our neighborhoods. I will represent and be a voice for the Ward 5 residents where the restrictions, in a large part, don’t apply as they are written at this point. The important thing for Ward 5 will be to not add unnecessary red tape to an already cumbersome building process that could potentially discourage investments in the southern parts of Prairie Village. I will do my part to make sure Ward 5 has a voice in this process.

David MorrisonDavid Morrison
I agree with the spirit and motivation behind the most recently presented Residential Design Amendment Guidelines for Prairie Village e.g., ratio to lot size, set backs, quality of materials, etc., but am most disappointed with the constraints the latest version imposes.

Prairie Village has experienced a steady increase in both teardowns and new homes – approximately 58 since 2010.  PV should want more, not less, of that.  It is the only way to rejuvenate our housing stock and to really increase property values in a landlocked City.  Preserving the charm of Prairie Village is not only maintaining what is current but also improving what the community has to offer.  We must allow for individual choice AND support growth.

If the concern is the size of the new builds, the proposal before the city misses the mark in protecting existing homes being dwarfed by new ones.  What the current guidelines do achieve is to define the type and style of home you are able to build by enforcing elements that are perceived to fit in line with only certain types of existing homes in the Village – in direct conflict with Village Vision.

The proposed guidelines negatively impact all residential construction with bump outs, dormers, and additions by increasing cost and adding restrictive design constraints which will illicit unintended results, ultimately restricting good architectural design.

It is imperative that PV protect the value of adjacent & surrounding properties.

To this end, I advocate:
4 Sided Quality Construction Requirements
A Defined Ridge Height Limit as Determined by the Planning Commission with Considerable Public Input
Strictly Enforced Construction Time Frames so as to Minimized Noise & Inconvenience to Adjoining Properties

The south end of the city is uniquely different from the north end of the city but the (proposed) restrictions across the city should be uniform except for varying set back provisions due to larger lot size and to pre-existing homes association covenants.

Ward 6

Ted Odell
Ted Odell

Ted Odell
I understand the desire to protect the Charm and Character of Prairie Village. However, housing trends have changed over the years. Homes built in the forties, fifties, and sixties may not meet the current homebuyer needs and/or desires. We need to find a balance between protecting existing homes without stagnating growth and redevelopment in our community. I do not believe this is a ‘one size fits all’ solution because we have many different neighborhood types throughout our city. I appreciate city staff along with the committee members reaching out to the public for input. We will have the opportunity to review results from recent public meetings and I’m hopeful we can come up with a solution which benefits all parties involved.

Tomorrow’s question: Other cities in northeast Johnson County pay a stipend to the mayor and city council members for their service. Prairie Village pays a ceremonial $1. Because of the cost of running for office and the hours required for the service, some residents argue that it is time to end the $1 practice. Do you favor paying more than the $1 to the council and mayor or do you want to keep it the same?