Neighbors of a controversial proposed 500-unit apartment building at 127th Street and Metcalf Avenue were no happier this week after voicing their concerns with the developer. Nevertheless, a sharply divided Overland Park City Council moved the Sorrento Place project forward Monday night, citing a change in building patterns along the corridor.
The council voted 7-5 to rezone the 12.7 acres from office use to allow for two six-story apartment buildings which were characterized by one resident as “huge” and “monstrous.” About 30 people showed up at the meeting to oppose the project.
Council members who voted for it, however, said the area has always been intended to be high-density, and noted that there were other tall buildings in the general area.
“I know folks don’t want it because it’s change,” said councilmember Jim Kite, noting that the city has approved other big buildings much closer to single-family homes and the project is on a major thoroughfare. “It doesn’t get a lot of traction with me to say, well, we’re going to have to look at it. This city has a lot of tall buildings. We have a master plan. This area was master planned for buildings.”
The area near St. Luke’s South was approved in 2014 for offices and a continuing care facility. The new zoning will allow an apartment building that is and 430 feet at its longest, along with structured parking. The apartments are intended for ages 55 and up.
Nearby residents got the council to defer action two weeks ago because they said they hadn’t been adequately notified. The city is only legally required to send notices to property owners up to 200 feet away, but most of the residents lived in subdivisions from 350 to 800 feet away, prompting a discussion of whether the city should do more to notify farther-flung neighborhoods.
Mary Coffman said her family moved to Overland Park because it’s a larger city “but still has that warm cozy feel to it.”
“Putting a six-story building in among one and two-story buildings is just going to take away from the look, the feel of the community,” she said.
“There’s also a supposition that a development of this size impacts only people who live within 200 feet,” said neighbor Janet Milkovich. “It affects all of us in our community.”
But lawyer John Petersen, representing the developer, said the buildings are not out of character for the area. He questioned whether the neighboring homes at some distance away would be directly affected, or if it was more a question of not liking the looks of the project.
“This is an issue of when I drive by Mr. Price’s site, I’m not going to like to see such a large building,” he said.
Some residents said they wouldn’t object to smaller, low-slung buildings similar to the offices that now dot the area. But that type of suburban office development, common 15 or 20 years ago, is rarely being built today, said councilmember Curt Skoog.
Councilmember Dave White noted that the existing office zoning had not brought about any development on that parcel. “We zoned it as office. Nobody built an office there. That should indicate to us this is probably not a good place for an office building.”
Some council members were critical of the development, though. Councilmember Faris Farassati and Gina Burke disliked the size of the project. “I do not believe this project is in harmony with its surroundings,” Farassati said.
He and some other council members also said the developer and the city should have done more to get the neighbors’ opinions.
Councilmember Logan Heley agreed. “Had we engaged the neighborhoods in the community way back when we wouldn’t be sitting here going on three and half hours in a meeting discussing this.”
Others were okay with the project but wanted to send it back to planning commission to reconsider some setback deviations. That would have required a supermajority of nine votes, however.
In the end, the council approved the project without changes. Voting against were Burke, Farassati, White, and Heley and John Thompson.