Overland Park to consider requiring developers to hold neighborhood meetings for certain projects

With a wave of new development hitting the area, some residents have suggested Overland Park should require builders to hold neighborhood meetings as part of the permitting process.

In an effort to satisfy residents, the Overland Park city council is considering new rules that would require developers to hold neighborhood meetings and expand the notification area for certain building projects.

The council’s community development committee Wednesday directed staff to continue crafting changes that also would simplify the labeling of projects on the city’s website and make notification signs and cards clearer. Once the plan is drafted, it will be considered by the planning commission and eventually the full city council.

Developers have been encouraged in the past to hold meetings with the neighbors affected by their proposals, as a matter of policy. But there have been complaints that some of those meetings were not announced with enough notice, that the time and place was inconvenient or that the area getting notice of the meetings was not inclusive enough.

The proposed changes to the unified development ordinance would make them a legal requirement when projects are within 500 feet of single-family residential housing. Neighborhood meetings would be required when rezoning is requested from an area of low density homes, when the rezoning is larger than 10 acres for multi-family, office, commercial and industrial uses, when a preliminary plan in those types of projects undergoes substantial change or when special use permits are issued for new construction.

Some new rules for how and when the meeting notices go out are also being discussed as staff policy, though they were not included yet as part of the ordinance. For instance, developers would have to send the notices out at least ten days before the neighborhood meeting, and a meeting would need to be at least 10 days before a public hearing.

The notification area also would be expanded from the current 200 feet to neighbors 500 feet from a project.

The look and language of the notification cards and website also would be redesigned to make it more understandable. Instead of using planning commission acronyms, the notifications would use more generic terms, and links would be posted on the web page showing residents their opportunities for input and project details.

Committee chairman Curt Skoog said the changes came about after residents expressed frustration about how they’ve been notified on various projects. For instance, neighbors of the Sorrento Place project at 127th Street and Metcalf Avenue objected to the way they were told about a 500-unit apartment building last year. Because of the neighborhood layout, many did not receive notice because they were more than 200 feet away.

The new rules are the result of about a year’s worth of work by a special committee of residents and developers.

“These are not all people who walked into the room friendly on the issue,” Skoog said as he praised the special committee’s ability to find consensus.

“Development is something we will still want to encourage happening in our city. So we don’t want to put up roadblocks — that may be put there with the best of intentions– to unnecessarily slow down the project,” he said, adding the city hopes to have good communications with neighbors.

If implemented, the new rules would go into effect early next year.