Leawood council decides against moving old city hall off site

Leawood council
Nearly all Leawood residents at the Nov. 12 council meeting asked to keep the old city hall building on its original site in northern Leawood.

The Leawood council has unanimously decided to keep the old city hall at its current site.

The decision followed lengthy discussion among its members as well as public input in the nearly full council chambers Monday evening. Nearly all Leawood residents who spoke gave their strong support for keeping old city hall on site at 96th Street and Lee Boulevard, including members of the Leawood Historic Commission and the Leawood Homeowners Association.

The council’s decision last night reflects a similar vote in December 2017 to accept a recommendation from the city’s historic commission to move the original city hall building slightly north on the property and transform it into a multi-purpose community facility with space for meetings and a small museum.

Mayor Peggy Dunn said a meeting last month was the first time councilmembers suggested moving the old city hall building off site, prompting the need for last night’s special council meeting to resolve the matter.

JoLynn Hobbs, president of the Leawood Homeowners Association, said most residents who reached out to her wished to keep the old city hall on site. She suggested following the historic commission’s long-standing recommendation from April 2008.

The former home of Leawood’s city hall at 96th Street and Lee Boulevard.

“I ask that the city protect, invest and utilize these buildings for the use of the residents of Leawood,” Hobbs said. “I am absolutely confident the Leawood park and rec department can develop a plan that includes all the needs and wishes of our residents and provides for all that our valued Leawood fire department deserves as well.”

Leawood resident Bruce North called the old city hall building a landmark and historical anchor for northern Leawood. He thinks moving it would be “disrespectful to our community.”

North added that he thinks that last night was the first time Leawood residents have been asked to provide input on plans for old city hall. He wants more time for residents to make informed opinions and “have a two-way conversation” with city leaders before any official plans are made.

“To me, more importantly… my understanding is there is no concrete, coherent plan for what’s going to be done afterwards,” North said. “I feel very strongly that a comprehensive plan should be in place before anything is moved, and that plan should be the result of discussions between the city and the community as how best to use that property.”

Councilmember Debra Filla, who represents the northern part of the city in Ward 1, said the original firehouse and city hall building “look good together.” She and several councilmembers said they would like to see architectural plans that show a complete list of options that include the old city hall and old fire station, the new fire station and outdoor layout of courtyard, playground and park space.

Here is the sample layout of the repurposed old city hall, provided by the historic commission:

Leawood is about 70 years old, and some councilmembers said keeping the old city hall intact and on its original site will best preserve its history and character for another 70 years. Councilmember Andrew Osman, the other Ward 1 representative, said he was opposed to relocating the old city hall off site.

City administrator Scott Lambers said the city will now begin the planning process for the new fire station next to the old city hall building and also make requests for quotation for a new park on site. Lambers added that city staff will “do what we can to make sure that” the RFQ explicitly states that multiple options for old city hall are under consideration, so that costs for preparing those multiple scenarios can be anticipated.

At this time, the council has no plans to conduct a work session to discuss plans for the old city hall building next month.