Shawnee seeking compromises between neighbors and developer on Woodsonia West Multi-Family housing project

Shawnee residents filled the city council chambers Monday to raise concerns about the Woodsonia West Multi-Family and Westbrooke Green projects.

Shawnee city leaders have tabled Woodsonia West Multi-Family, a proposed housing development near Johnson Drive and K-7 Highway that’s generated controversy in the neighborhood, to the next city council meeting after several residents and councilmembers raised concerns about the project.

The developer, Austin Homes LLC, a company owned by Greg Prieb of Prieb Homes LLC, plans to build a multi-family and single-family townhome development on about 29 acres in the 5300 block of Woodsonia Drive.

The governing body on Monday was slated to consider the development plan and rezoning for the site, but neighbors had submitted a valid protest petition against the rezoning for the project. Approval of the rezoning would have required seven “yes” votes from the governing body.

A dozen people, most of them neighboring residents, raised similar concerns and frustrations at a planning commission meeting in November. They believe the density of the project is too high and will cause a spike in traffic congestion, crime and enrollment in neighboring schools.

A rendering of the proposed Woodsonia West Multi-Family project that’s prompted a protest petition from neighboring homeowners.

Several neighbors said traffic is already backing up for vehicles at the intersections of Woodsonia Drive at 51st and 53rd streets. City staff said they’re expecting traffic from the Woodsonia West development to exit onto Johnson Drive or K-7 Highway, not through those neighborhoods.

“The residents have known for years that this medium density was coming. We’re not fighting the development; we would welcome a development that made sense,” said Renee Weatherman, a neighbor. “But our main problem is that 75% of these cars drive directly through our stable family neighborhood.”

Housing density higher than previous proposals

Previous housing development plans on the site called for a lower density of 7 to 9 dwelling units per acre. This project calls for about 14 units per acre.

Several councilmembers acknowledged they had received calls, letters and emails from neighbors, and a few expressed their own concerns. Others wanted to see the city bring in new development to build the density that can support commercial development.

Still others wanted to find compromise between neighboring homeowners and the developer.

“I’m just curious what efforts have been made to seek potential win-wins with neighbors,” said Councilmember Lindsey Constance, noting that opportunities for compromise have helped neighbors feel better on other developments in the city.

Pete Heaven, the developer’s attorney, said the density is as low as possible while still being economically viable and attractive to residents seeking amenities they plan to offer, like a fitness room or dog park.

The city council ultimately voted 7-1 to table the plans to the Dec. 23 city council meeting. Councilmember Eric Jenkins cast the dissenting vote. Most of his concerns also related to the high density of the project.

City leaders said they hope the developer will use the time to find options for compromise on the project. They’ve specifically asked the developer to review traffic concerns and adding a buffer between the single-family homes and the multi-family complex on the north side of the site (either by lowering the elevation of the apartments or by adding a townhome to block the apartment complex from view).