After months of work, Prairie Village approves new restrictions on house size

A newly built home between two original ranches on 71st Terrace in Prairie Village.

The contentious process to craft guidelines ensuring the glut of new homes being built in Prairie Village fit in with the size and scope of neighboring properties came to fruition on Monday.

More than a year after a group of Prairie Village Homes Association homeowners spurred an effort to address the design of new homes built on the lots of torn-down Prairie Village originals, the Prairie Village City Council on Monday passed an ordinance that addresses three facets of new home design: building height, first floor elevation and side setbacks.

The changes — which had been developed by city staff after it took over from the PVHA group when that group’s work was derailed by the controversy it sparked — had been recommended for approval by the city’s planning commission earlier this month.

City leaders said repeatedly that they felt pressure from long-time homeowners to address the issue after hearing complaints about massive homes being put in next to the more modestly sized Cape Cods and ranches that were built in the city’s formative years.

“We have heard people say ‘Please don’t wait, please do something,’” Mayor Laura Wassmer said of the process earlier this spring. “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.”

There have been 65 new homes built in the city — 58 of them on the site of existing structures — since 2010.

Deliberations over the proposals recommended by the planning commission went on for an hour Monday after Ward 3 Councilor Eric Mikkelson suggested tweaking the language to the guidelines on side setbacks. Mikkelson argued that the side setback language should allow for some flexibility to provide builders with better access to move equipment in and out of a backyard, among other reasons. The council ultimately agreed, passing the amended ordinance with a super-majority vote.

Here’s the ordinance in its entirety:

Slides used by consultants from Gould Evans to summarize the changes are embedded below:

The city has informed its home owners associations that it intends to investigate options for additional regulations that could further enhance neighborhood design cohesion in the coming months.