By Andy Graham
Despite the vocal objection of several neighborhood residents who packed the gallery Monday, Overland Park’s City Council voted 8-2 to approve revisions to the preliminary plan for a mixed-use project on the site of the Brookridge golf course that developer Curtin Property Company said were needed to lure a prospective office tenant.
Councilmembers Dave White and Jim Kite voted against the requested code deviations to a preliminary plan for the site east of Antioch Road between 103rd Street and Interstate 435. Those deviations call for reducing the street setback distance between the property and Antioch Road from 108 feet to 80 feet, and increasing the height of an office building from 10 to 12 stories. The Overland Park Planning Commission voted 10-0 to recommend approval of the revised preliminary plan May 15.
Monday night’s vote followed a presentation by John Petersen, attorney for Polsinelli PC, the firm representing Curtin, and a lengthy public comment period. Ten residents voiced concerns about proposed changes and other issues, while a full gallery cheered and echoed the speakers’ comments. Stormwater, flooding, use of public funds, and safety were common themes brought up during the nearly hour-long session.
Past floods and the recent City Place fire were used as examples of how construction and the addition of new impervious surface could wreak havoc on the surrounding neighborhood of single family homes. Neighborhood resident Bob Miller painted the bleakest assessment.
“One welder’s mistake and we’ll have carnage,” Miller told the council in reference to the City Place blaze. “You will all have blood on your hands.”
Mayoral candidate Charlotte O’Hara voiced concerns over the prospect of public finance incentives for the project, and how the 4.7 million square feet of office and retail space will increase the amount of water entering the already flood-prone Indian Creek.
“There are no assurances from council about city incentives,” she said. “How can they take it to market without knowing the cost and amount of city incentives?”
A heated exchange between O’Hara and Councilmember Terry Goodman about incentives followed, with Goodman supporting the public-private model and O’Hara calling it bad public policy.
“[I]t is destructive to use corporate welfare,” she said.
Many questioned the amount of due diligence involved in studying the environment impact of the project, especially how it relates to stormwater, water quality, and flooding issues around Indian Creek. One neighbor pondered whether they should feel comfortable with “assurances by a lawyer that there isn’t any problem with the floodplain.”
In response, several councilmembers pointed to the expertise and knowledge of city staff as the best assurance that there won’t be serious environmental issues.
Councilmember Dan Stock said he trusted the assessment of the professional staff who reviewed the proposal for the city.
“I respect the recommendations of staff and have complete confidence that stormwater won’t be an issue,” Stock said.
In response to the residents’ concerns, Goodman echoed his confidence in city staff.
“I appreciate the expertise of our professional staff, and that stormwater will be dealt with the best way,” Goodman said. “I feel the same about issues related to traffic and safety.”
Petersen’s presentation included an animated flyover video showing vibrant gathering spaces, an entertainment district, walkable amenities, attractive retail and residential structures, and other detailed renderings of lush greenspace and futuristic architecture. It also represented other changes in the plan ⎯ a unique water feature with fountains that winds through the property instead of the “pond” in previous versions; and the removal of a 650-seat movie-theater complex to make room for more restaurants.
Last fall, Curtin approached the city about the creation of new tax increment financing and sales tax revenue bond districts, indicating that it intends to seek more than $550 million in public incentives for the project.