Prairie Village acts to split housing guideline process, fast track items with broad consensus

An under-construction home on the site of a Prairie Village teardown on 71st Street.
An under-construction home on the site of a Prairie Village teardown on 71st Street.

The process to develop guidelines dictating what design features are acceptable on new homes in Prairie Village will be split into two paths after direction given by the city council this week.

The council instructed city staff to move forward with the creation of ordinance language that would codify the proposed guidelines that have received wide support from members of the community since the process started late last year. These guidelines would include things like roof height and side setbacks.

“There was a lot of consensus just on those two points,” Assistant City Administrator Wes Jordan told the council Monday. “Those two points would control size and mass to a certain degree, if we did just that.”

But because the city had heard from a number of parties, including several architects, who thought they had valuable perspectives to add to the working draft of guidelines presented at community meetings in February, Jordan also recommended that the city spend more time fine tuning the full proposal.

“I heard from a number of architects who would also like to offer a perspective,” Jordan said. “I happen to think that that’s a good idea.”

As such, the council approved the plan of moving the broad-consensus items forward for consideration by the planning commission and, assuming they are approved at that level, final approval by the council. City staff will continue to work on more detailed regulations on issues like eave height and window coverage and will bring a new draft back to the council once it is completed.

Mayor Laura Wassmer spoke strongly in favor of enacting the general guidelines as soon as possible, saying that she had heard from many long-time Prairie Village residents that they were concerned the character of the city’s original neighborhoods was in jeopardy as traditional Cape Cods were falling to be replaced by much larger homes. With five tear-down permits issued and another 12 in the pipeline, there isn’t time to wait, she said.

“We have heard people say ‘Please don’t wait, please do something,’” she said. “We are hearing that not from the builders, not from the people who are moving in, but from people who live here already. The people who have invested in their homes, have lived here for 20, 30, 40 years. Those are the people who are saying please do something now before you change my street, my neighborhood to the point where I don’t recognize it anymore…I think we owe as much to them as we owe to the developers and the people want to come into our community.”