A new set of rules requiring neighborhood meetings for some development projects got final approval from the Overland Park City Council, despite a last-minute assertion that the city’s renters should get more consideration.
Councilmember Logan Heley noted that nearly half of the city’s population is made up of renters with more coming as new multi-use and senior living projects are being built. He proposed language requiring developers to make a good faith effort to notify tenants as well as property owners within 500 feet of a project about an upcoming neighborhood meeting.
“I won’t support a change that puts certain residents on a higher class than other residents,” Heley said.
“We would essentially be ignoring the voice of nearly half our residents. I think what concerns me the most is that those voices seemingly were not contemplated throughout this process,” he said, as he explained why he would not vote for the ordinance without that provision for renters.
Some others agreed with the intent, but said they’d rather vet the idea further through committees before committing to it. The ordinance is the product of over a year’s work with a steering committee made up of residents and developers, said Councilmember Curt Skoog. “I’m all for notifying everybody who wants to know. That’s the whole purpose of everything we’ve done up to this point is we want everybody to know.”
Councilmember Dave White agreed tenants should receive notice but said it would be next to impossible to identify all them for mailing. He said signs posted on the development property about the meetings could solve the problem.
But signs announcing neighborhood meetings were not a part of the new ordinance either, to the chagrin of two residents who have been pushing for them at previous committee and planning meetings. Mary Coffman and Janet Milkovich, who were on the steering committee, did not get to present their case for the meeting signs at the council meeting, but said they would continue their efforts.
The new ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1, expands the notification area from the current 200 feet to 500 feet from a project. The meetings are required mainly in circumstances where the residential density increases or for large multi-use developments near single family homes.
The city would also change the look and materials of the signs announcing a zoning change to include simpler language. In addition, information about the projects would be posted on the city’s website.
Coffman said she would also like the city to increase the area for a certified letter about the development from the 200 feet, which is required by state law to 500 feet. The shorter area limits the ability of neighbors to file protest petition, she said.
However some council members said giving wider notifications about meetings could dilute the voices of people who live close and are more impacted by the developments.
In the end, 10 council members supported the new rules, saying the city can continue to look at the other issues and make changes in the future, if needed.
“Our procedure regarding notification had loopholes in it,” said Councilmember Faris Farassati. “This is definitely a step in the right direction in closing those loopholes but I believe it is a work in progress.”