Shawnee looks to relax downtown design guidelines to allow housing above shops

Housing may soon be permitted above businesses and retail shops in downtown Shawnee.

The Shawnee planning commission on Monday voted 8-0 to approve the mixed-use concept in the design guidelines for Town Square District, which encompasses the downtown area along Johnson Drive and Nieman Road.
Commissioners Brian Roth, Randy Braley and Rusty Mudgett were absent.

Lauren Grashoff, neighborhood planner for Shawnee, said the amended zoning regulations allow residential condominiums, multi-family and townhouses in the Town Square District. The changes also implement a less restrictive setback from the street.

Under the new guidelines, these residences will be permitted in lots directly adjacent to Johnson Drive and Nieman Road, as long as they are located above associated businesses or spaces dedicated for retail or commercial use. Homes cannot be located on the ground floor of buildings that front Johnson Drive or Nieman Road.

“It is the intent of the Townsquare district to allow for a variety of uses, increase density, incorporate pedestrian-oriented design, and preserve the original cultural center of the City,” according to a planning staff memo. “The proposed amendments help to achieve those Goals.”

Previously, residential housing was prohibited in any commercial zoning districts, including downtown. Properties not directly adjacent to Johnson Drive or Nieman Road but still in the downtown district are now permitted for residential-only development.

The less restricted setbacks are designed to “maximize development density, encourage pedestrian-friendly development and unify the district,” according to the memo. The setbacks may be used for a variety of purposes, including pedestrian spaces, architectural and/or landscape features, outdoor dining areas, front stoops and stairways.

Although the amended setbacks are less restrictive, they are intended to align with adjacent existing buildings.

Planning chair Dennis Busby asked if the changes will allow some on-street parking and shared parking. Grashoff said the planning commission will review each individual case of parking requests from future developers and businesses on each basis. Grashoff added that underground parking, as seen in some new developments in Overland Park, is an option.

There was no comment during the public hearing.