The $1.8 billion Brookridge development is moving forward again after a vote to allow rezoning at the corner of Antioch Road and 103rd Street.
The project had been on a one-month hold after the Overland Park City Council voted down rezoning of a proposed commercial area near the Antioch and 103rd Street intersection in May, raising the hopes of residential neighbors who have opposed it since its inception four years ago.
The 45 neighbors who turned out Monday for the extended discussion grumbled in disappointment with the council’s 7-4 vote. “This is a bunch of sh–,” one man was heard to exclaim as the group exited the chamber.
The proposal the council approved was essentially the same as the one it rejected a month ago. This time, though, their approval was conditional on the developer meeting staff guidelines on numerous development details. The rezoning won’t become official and be published if that doesn’t happen.
Council members struggled at times to understand what new thing the developer was offering. Typically, when a project hits a snag with the city, the developer will come back with modifications to reach a compromise, as Brookridge has done in the past. But this time the vote appeared to hinge on the leverage – already a part of the agreement – that the city can withhold publication of the rezoning.
At the heart of Monday’s discussion were 12 properties along the western edge of the development along Antioch. Those homes were a sticking point early in the project’s history, said councilmember David White, when an earlier council turned down a request to condemn them for the project.
The developer has bought seven of those homes since then, including four in a row at the north end of Antioch.
Several council members objected last month to the developer’s request to subdivide the phases of Antioch road improvements that will be needed to meet increasing traffic. They and residents worried that it would mean that road construction could be going on for years, possibly causing drivers to shortcut through neighborhoods.
Monday, White wondered aloud if the reason for the new street schedule was that the developer does not yet own the houses farther south.
John Petersen, the developer’s lawyer, said ownership was not the cause driving the phasing of the street construction and tempers briefly flared over that point.
“You can make that sound as dranconian (sic) as you want to make it…” Petersen began before being interrupted by groans from the audience. “If I can’t be treated with respect I don’t want to be treated,” White said. Petersen replied he didn’t intend to be disrespectful.
But residents who spoke against the proposal Monday were clearly concerned about more than legal technicalities. Some disliked the idea of replacing a scenic golf course with a mixed-use development full of offices and apartments.
“When I moved here over 30 years ago one of the reasons I moved here was because Brookridge was a beautiful place to drive by every single day. It was a breath of fresh air. If we wanted to live in the middle of New York City we’d move there. This is nothing but the rape of the land and the biggest disservice to a residential neighborhood, frankly, in the history of the United States,” said resident Wayne Smith.
Jim Korinke was similarly unhappy with the idea. “I’ll be dead before this complex ever is built. I am grateful to God for that,” he said.
The rezoning debated Monday was only for a small part of the 140 acre development. The rest of it has already been rezoned and could theoretically be built without further council approval, White said. But the street and construction phasing were enough of a sticking point that White voted no. “What we’ve got is a bad plan, folks, that can be built tomorrow. So let’s make it a better plan and then it’s going to be up to the developer to get it built. But if we’re going to do it, make sure it’s a better plan than what we’ve got now.”
Councilmember Faris Farassati said a yes vote would send the wrong message to developers. “Altogether we are saying in the city of Overland Park, come back, argue at a later date, don’t improve your plans, do not make it better and at some point you wear them down and you’re going to get your way. And I propose to you that is not good for any of us,” he said.
“At the end of the day, nothing should hurt the quality of life of the city of Overland Park.
However others on the council liked the plan. Councilmember Curt Skoog said, “I think the original plan was a good plan and I think this plan is an improvement.” The plan will bring much-needed improvements to the corner of 103rd and Antioch, he said.
Skoog and councilmember Paul Lyons said they like the mixed-use idea that uses office development to draw residents to the apartments and retail elements.
“A successful office development complex requires the live-work-plan concept because the old idea of just putting office buildings in one spot with nothing else there has become obsolete over the years,” Lyons said.
Lyons said he believes the project will be eventually drive up home values in surrounding neighborhoods.
Voting against the rezoning were council members White, Farassati, Jim Kite and Logan Heley. Councilmember Gina Burke was absent.
The three-hour discussion ended on a dissatisfied note, as Mayor Carl Gerlach expressed frustration about the progress of the project.
“This council and this city is getting weary of the number of times changes are coming back,” he said.