Decision day for new Prairie Village home design guidelines coming Monday. Here’s what they would mean

A new home going up on Delmar Street in Prairie Village near the Village Shops.

Expect the Prairie Village City Council chambers to be a lively place come Monday.

After the city’s planning commission unanimously recommended approval for a set of new home design guidelines Sept. 11, the council at its meeting next week will take up whether to formally adopt the new regulations.

A Lambie teardown site in Prairie Village.

A group of homebuilding and remodeling professionals have organized opposition to the new guidelines, with several lobbying the planning commission to recommend denial ahead of the vote earlier this month, saying that the regulations would scuttle investment in rebuild projects and would have unintended consequences for existing homeowners.

Among the proposed design standards, the new regulations would require a minimum amount of greenspace on a home lot, and restrict the amount impervious surface.

In preparation for Monday’s meeting, Prairie Village city staff have produced a Q&A sheet detailing what the new guidelines would do, and what types of projects they would affect. Here are a few of the items from that sheet, which is included in the agenda packet for Monday’s meeting:

How will these proposed standards affect existing homes that want to do an addition?

If the addition is under 200 square feet, these standards will not come into play at all. If the addition is over 200 square feet, the standards would need to be met only on the portion of the home that is being improved. If the property is not in conformance with the impervious coverage limit of 40%, they would still be allowed to do an addition to their home, as long as they do not increase the existing impervious surface coverage on the lot

Will these proposed standards prohibit certain types of architecture in Prairie Village?

The proposed standards do not regulate architectural style, and all types of architecture would still be allowed to be built in Prairie Village under these standards. The Neighborhood Design Committee was cognizant that there are many different types of architecture throughout the City. The committee looked at several different types of houses to ensure that the proposed standards would still allow all types of homes. Instead of regulating architectural style, what these proposed standards would do is add design requirements that will break up large wall planes, limit the size of garages, and ensure greenspace is adequately preserved to create a better relationship with the streetscape and the look/feel of the neighborhood.

Will the impervious surface coverage limit prohibit residents from widening their driveway, putting in a pool, or adding a patio to their backyard?

If the resident is only adding impervious coverage and not adding to their building footprint, they would not be required to comply with these proposed standards. They would need to get a drainage permit and building permit (if applicable), but they would not be required to meet any of the proposed standards since they aren’t adding more than 200 square feet, building a new structure, or changing the front elevation/roof line. The exception to this would be any home that previously had to comply with the neighborhood design standards. For example, if a new structure is built after the proposed standards are in effect, they must keep their impervious surface coverage at 40% indefinitely and would not be permitted to add additional impervious surface down the road if it would cause them to exceed the 40% limit.

Will drainage studies still be required to be completed before a drainage permit is issued on teardowns/rebuilds if the proposed standards are adopted?

Yes; drainage studies will still be required to be submitted on all teardown/rebuild projects before a drainage permit will be issued.

When would the proposed standards go into effect?

The Planning Commission recommended that the proposed standards go into effect 4 months after City Council approval, which would be February 1, 2019 if the proposed standards are approved by the City Council on October 1.

Is there any flexibility to the proposed standards, or would a variance be required to deviate from the standards?

There is an exception process built into the proposed standards that would allow a project to deviate from the design standards if they can meet certain criteria. In order to apply for an exception, a site plan application would need to be submitted to the Planning Commission for review. The application fee for a residential site plan review is $100. In order to be granted an exception, the Planning Commission would need to find that the applicant meets the following criteria:

  • An exception dealing with the placement of the building is consistent with sound planning, urban design, and engineering practices when considering the site and its context with the neighborhood.
  • The exception can only apply to the design standards and cannot be granted to allow
    something that is specifically prohibited in other regulations.
  • The placement and orientation of the main structure, accessory structures, garages, and
    driveways considers the high points and low points of the grade and locates them in such a way to minimize the perceived massing of the building from the streetscape and
    surrounding lots.
  • An exception that affects the design and massing of the building is consistent with the
    common characteristics of the architectural style selected for the building.
  • The requested exception improves the quality design of the building and site beyond what could be achieved by meeting the standards
    The exception will equally or better serve the design objectives stated in Section 19.06.025A and the intent stated for the particular standard being altered.

How much does it cost to plant a street tree under these proposed standards?

The City’s landscape architect with Gould Evans determined that a 2.5 inch caliper tree from the City’s approved list of trees would cost no more than $250. To have the tree professionally installed, it could cost up to an additional $250, and this cost would include delivery, installation, and a one-year warranty, which would bring the maximum total cost for a 2.5 inch caliper tree from the City’s list of approved right-of-way trees to $500. Our landscape architect added, anecdotally, that he serves on the board of his HOA, who recently purchased 8 street trees. The total cost to purchase the tree plus delivery, installation, and a one-year warranty was $280 to $305 per tree, depending on the type of tree. Only lots where an existing tree does not exist would need to have a tree planted. Existing trees would count towards this requirement and an additional tree would not be required to be planted.

Prairie Village approved an initial set of design standards for new homes in the city back in 2016, which limited the maximum height of buildings and set minimum setback requirements. Those guidelines do not appear to have dissuaded people who want to build new homes in the city from moving forward with their projects. The city issued 24 single-family residential building permits in 2015, and it’s increased every year since. There were 34 such permits issued in 2017 and there have been 35 issued in 2018 through August alone.

The Prairie Village city council voted 8-2 in August to send the draft guidelines to the planning commission for review with councilmembers Ted Odell and Serena Schermoly casting the dissenting votes. Staff and the city council had been working on the general concept for the guidelines for several months at the time of that vote.