Roeland Park working to remove unconstitutional racial restrictions from covenants, allow for redevelopment along Johnson Drive

Roeland Park City Administrator Keith Moody

A group of Roeland Park homeowners are working with the city to remove a vestige of the racially restrictive housing policies that were used in the formative years of many northeast Johnson County neighborhoods, and to ready a collection of single family home buildings on Johnson Drive for redevelopment.

Like many subdivisions in the area, the homes in the Roe Manor Heights neighborhood have a deed restriction that explicitly prevents people of color from moving into the residences. Though such restrictions have been long deemed unconstitutional and unenforceable, in many cases they remain on the books because the rules for amending the documents are so onerous.

In Roe Manor Heights, however, the city and residents saw an opportunity to strike the language from the document.

Roe Manor Heights does not currently have a home owners association, an organization that would be required to amend the covenants. So the city worked with residents to file the articles of incorporation for a new HOA with the limited scope of removing the discriminatory language from the covenants.

“If the amendment is approved the HOA will incorporate the changes into a revised set of covenants and have those recorded,” said Roeland Park City Administrator Keith Moody. “This will conclude the HOA’s purpose, and it will dissolve.”

The home owners association would also be able to remove five single family home structures along Johnson Drive from the subdivision. Those structures have been used for business purposes for years, but are far from ideal for commercials uses. A developer has approached the city about reworking the properties, but could not move forward with a commercial project if the building requirements were subject to the Roe Manor Heights subdivision restrictions.

The newly formed HOA met for the first time last night, and homeowners received a ballot to vote on removing the racially discriminatory language from the covenants as well as removing the five Johnson Drive properties from the subdivision boundaries.

“Supporting ballots from 38 of the 73 properties is necessary to pass the amendment,” Moody said. “As of 4-11-18, 31 yes votes have been cast with 0 no votes.”