Despite push for compromise, Shawnee council rejects Woodsonia West Multi-Family opposed by neighbors group

A rendering of the proposed Woodsonia West Multi-Family project that’s

After raising concerns about a multi-family housing and townhome development in western Shawnee, the city council on Monday rejected a rezoning request and preliminary plan submittal from Prieb Homes on the project.

Prieb Homes had proposed a $50 million project to build 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 — the underlying cause for concern for councilmembers and neighboring homeowners.

Dozens of neighbors had come out in force against the proposal, citing concerns that the project would have too many people in too small of an area. They believed this would cause traffic congestion, overwhelm neighboring schools with new students and lead to other problems like crime and lowered property values.

Shawnee residents who live near the proposed Woodsonia West Multi-Family housing development shared their concerns with the project.

They also had concerns about the height of the buildings, saying it would not fit with the character of the surrounding neighborhoods of single-family homes.

Pete Heaven, the attorney representing Prieb Homes, said they had tried to compromise with the homeowners, removing more than a dozen units on the north side of the project and adding more scenery and beautification components.

Despite evidence presented by Heaven, some councilmembers, Mayor Michelle Distler and the city’s transportation staff, the project could not garner support from enough councilmembers to pass. It failed on a 4-4 vote.

Neighbors had submitted a valid protest petition against the project, which meant the item had required 7 of 8 votes by the governing body to pass.

Councilmembers Matt Zimmerman, Jim Neighbor, Mickey Sandifer and Lindsey Constance voted in support of the project. Councilmembers Eric Jenkins, Mike Kemmling, Stephanie Meyer and Lisa Larson-Bunnell voted against it.

“I really appreciate the developer’s efforts towards compromise; I think we were starting to move in the right direction,” Meyer said. “But I continue to have the same concerns I’ve had throughout the process, both about the density as well as the traffic issues, particularly in that roundabout area. I would echo Councilmember Jenkins’s comments: I am hopeful that another iterative of the development would come forward.”

Pete Heaven, an attorney representing Prieb Homes

Councilmembers in support said that western Shawnee lacks the density to support the restaurants and businesses that residents would like to have near their neighborhoods.

“If we want Shawnee to sit here and be a bedroom community forever, that’s fine,” said Councilmember Jim Neighbor, asking residents to look at the density and related successful economic development in Lenexa. “But if you want to get the amenities and things, and everything you want going forward, we’re going to need to have more rooftops. Multi-family is the way to do it.”

Patrick Fitzgerald, the resident who collected signatures on the protest petition, said he was thankful that the city council listed to the 60% of property owners who signed the petition against it.

“We’re not against development or any of that,” Fitzgerald said. “My hope is that the developer can find a use for that land that fits within the city’s comprehensive plan. My hope that land can get developed in a way that conforms with the rest of the neighborhood, or at least makes sense.”