Lenexa rejects Southern Star’s request for rezoning, new office building

By Jerry LaMartina

The Lenexa City Council has rejected a request for rezoning by Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline Inc. that would have allowed the company to build an office building at 19600 W. 87th Lane, and rejected its request for approval of a companion project plan.

A map showing the location of the Southern Star property.

The property is just west of the 3&2 Baseball complex.

At its March 20 meeting, the council voted 5 to 3 to return the proposals to the Lenexa Planning Commission for reconsideration, with suggestions to shrink the requested rezoning area and change access to the building from 87th Lane to 87th Street Parkway. Ward 1 Councilman Joe Karlin and Ward 2 councilmen Thomas Nolte and Bill Nicks voted no.

City staff also recommended denying the proposals and returning them to the planning commission with these stipulations.

The proposed office building would contain roughly 19,500 square feet and house nearly 40 full-time employees. The building would enable the company to consolidate several offices into a single building and location.

About 4,500 square feet would be used for manufacturing and repairing some pipeline components, which the company currently does outside on the site.

According to the memo, the requested rezoning doesn’t conform to the city’s Future Land Use Plan designation of the property as low-density residential; is incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood; and would bring too much traffic to 87th Lane, which is inadequate to accommodate office use.

Southern Star has owned the property since the 1950s and has always used it to store pipe and equipment, and for related uses.

The planning commission rejected the proposed project by an 8 to 1 vote at its March 5 meeting, which included a public hearing, and city staff also recommended denial at that time.

Several neighbors spoke at the hearing and expressed concerns that the new building would worsen traffic on 87th Lane, which has no curbs or gutters, and change the neighborhood’s character. Another neighbor, however, said the company had taken care of the property and should be allowed to do what it saw fit on it.

Ward 2 Councilman Thomas Nolte said he had “always been intrigued by the neighborhoods” in the area and had talked with many of its residents.

“There’s a unique (kind of) resident that chose that area,” Nolte said. “The city has approached the neighbors more than once about improvements to 87th Lane, and the (neighbors’) attitude was if you make it nicer there will be a lot more traffic. …

“This is probably one of the most unique home groups around,” he said. “They really don’t want curbs. The really don’t want signals. They really don’t want a lot of influence that the city would bring to quote-unquote upgrade their neighborhood. They kind of want to be left alone.”

Southern Star is a transporter of natural gas through about 6,000 miles of pipelines. It has pipelines, facilities and employees in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Texas, and is based in Owensboro, Ky. The company is locally managed and privately owned by General Electric and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in Québec City, Quebec.