The Roeland Park city council took up the issue of rezoning 5000 Johnson Drive from an office building district to a mixed use district at the governing body workshop Monday.
The long-vacant building was recently purchased by the owner of Pride Cleaners.
Kathleen Warman, of Warman Architects, spoke on behalf of Pride Cleaners and described the extensive exterior remodeling and parking lot reconfiguration planned for the site. Warman said the owner was also willing to add a public sidewalk to improve walkability.
While councilmembers generally agreed the plans significantly improved the look of the building, the updates do not comply with the Johnson Drive Design Guidelines adopted as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. These guidelines called for a reconfiguration of the building with parking in the rear and a common gathering space in the front.
Since the owner wants to update the existing building and not demolish and rebuild the city is limited in its ability to enforce the guidelines, according to city staff. Councilmember Jim Kelly said he was concerned with approving the rezoning application for a building not in compliance with the design guidelines.
“Once we do this we won’t have a leg to stand on with anybody else,” he said.
Kelly said he also understood the predicament of the owner not wanting to completely tear down and rebuild.
“It’s better to have something nice than nothing at all,” he said.
Warman pointed out that complying with all of the guidelines would not be possible with how the structure was built on the property.
While Pride Cleaners is only business planned to operate within the building the owners are open to adding additional tenants and have had preliminary talks with a coffee shop, according to city staff.
Councilmember Jen Hill said while she thought it was exciting to see development she wanted to make sure the city was being cognizant of homes behind the building. Hill asked if it was possible to add some type of sound barrier between the business and the residence behind it.
Warman said the home behind the business already had a tall privacy fence so she was unsure adding an additional barrier would be necessary.
Councilmember Michael Poppa asked if it was possible to add some type of screening for the area of the parking lot where there will be a drive up service area.
Warman said she would look into possibly adding some type of landscaping screen.
Poppa said he was excited about the project, but also had concerns with the precedent the city would be setting.
Councilmembers gave consensus to place the rezoning application on the agenda for upcoming committee meeting.