Neighbors submit protest petition against Woodsonia West Multi-Family development in Shawnee

Neighbors filled the chambers at Shawnee city hall Nov. 18 to express their opposition to the Woodsonia West Multi-Family housing project.

Residents who live near the site of an apartment project proposed near Johnson Drive and K-7 Highway in Shawnee have signed a petition protesting the city’s recent rezoning for the development.

Patrick Fitzgerald, a neighbor who led the initiative, said 41 of 67 neighboring property owners who live within 200 feet of the project area signed the petition before he submitted it to Shawnee city hall the day before Thanksgiving.

“It’s not that we’re against development; we all bought homes knowing that things were going to be built in that strip of land there off of Woodsonia,” Fitzgerald said. “But this project is such a departure from the three previous projects that the planning commission has approved in the past.

“And it goes against the comprehensive plan that has been laid out by the city for development. All three other plans were in line with that comprehensive plan. This one deviates from that.”

Here’s the project site plan for the Woodsonia West Multi-Family housing project.

Julie Breithaupt, communications manager for Shawnee, said the city “received the petition last week and is now working to confirm it meets the necessary requirements.”

If the protest petition is confirmed to be valid, then the rezoning will require a three-fourths majority vote by the governing body of Shawnee, according to state law.

Fitzgerald said their ultimate goal is to see a development proposal in line with the city’s comprehensive plan. He noted that the project area is zoned for medium density or commercial uses on page 13 of Chapter 5 in the city of Shawnee’s comprehensive plan.

The developer, Austin Homes LLC, plans to build a multi-family and single-family townhome development on about 29 acres in the 5300 blocks of Woodsonia Drive. The plan includes 42 townhome units in 14 triplex buildings and 384 multi-family units in 16 multi-story buildings. The plan calls for at least 14 dwelling units per acre, while previous plans on the site called for 7 to 9 units per acre.

Greg Prieb of Prieb Homes LLC owns Austin Properties, the company planning to build the Woodsonia West Multi-Family project.

Here’s a rendering of the multi-family component of the project:

In a report to the planning commission, city staff indicated that the proposed plan complies with the intent of the city’s comprehensive plan for future land use, citing a map in city documents that designates the project area for a mixture of high- and medium-density residential uses. The high-density site area is where the multi-family apartment complexes would be located, while the townhomes would be located in a medium-density area adjacent to the neighborhood, according to city documents.

Staff noted that the comprehensive plan defines high-density residential uses as between 10 and 15 dwelling units per acre, while medium density is defined as 5 to 10 dwelling units per acre.

Fitzgerald said the common denominator of their concerns is the density of the project when compared with the surrounding single-family homes.

“That will be the second largest complex in the city of Shawnee behind the Bluejacket tower that’s downtown,” Fitzgerald said. “This plan doesn’t conform to the continuity of the neighborhood.”

Another point of concern raised by neighbors is the perceived conflict of interest for the city, considering that Shawnee had agreed to purchase about an acre of land adjacent to the site area from Austin Properties at a lower price than what the property is valued to build a new fire station.

Shawnee purchased the land in July 2017 for $150,000. The current land value of the fire station is listed at $382,340, according to documents on the Johnson County’s AIMS website.

“I find it kind of concerning that the city acquired the land that the fire station is on for what I would consider below market price, and this is from the same developer who is getting the city, planning commission and staff, to support this project,” Fitzgerald said. “I find it kind of a conflict of interest, quite honestly. I think it’s an ethics question as to why the city would deviate from its comprehensive plan for a developer who they bought land from at a discounted price.”

Prieb could not be reached for comment.

The site was already zoned planned unit development mixed residential, but it still needed to be rezoned as the same zoning district because it’s in connection with the latest preliminary development plan. The Shawnee planning commission had approved the rezoning and preliminary plan Nov. 18, after nearly two hours of discussions and hearing concerns from neighbors.

The city council will consider the preliminary plan and rezoning on Dec. 9.