Austin Homes sues Shawnee over denial of Woodsonia West Multi-Family development

A rendering of the proposed Woodsonia West Multi-Family project that was rejected by the Shawnee city council in December. The developer behind the project has sued the city claiming that the denial was unreasonable.

Austin Homes, a Johnson County-based development company owned by Greg Prieb, has sued the city of Shawnee for denying its application to build a multi-family project near Johnson Drive and K-7 Highway.

The Woodsonia West Multi-Family development was proposed as a $50 million project to build 42 townhome units in 14 triplex buildings and 384 apartment units in 16 multi-story buildings on about 29 acres in the 5300 block of Woodsonia Drive. The city council on Dec. 23 rejected a rezoning request and preliminary plan submittal from Prieb Homes on the project.

The Woodsonia plan had called 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 and even signed a protest petition asking the city to reject the proposed plans in favor of a less dense project.

In the petition submitted in Johnson County District Court on Jan. 15, Austin Homes claims the city was unreasonable and unlawful by denying the developer’s application, and that at least one councilmember “pre-judged” her decision by assisting neighbors with the protest petition and sharing statements on the project before the city council meeting took place.

The developer is asking the court to reverse the city’s decision and require the city to approve the application.

Melissa Hoag Sherman, an attorney with Spencer Fane LLP, is representing Austin Homes on the case. Sherman represented Republic Services and Wayne Developers on a case last year in which Shawnee had attempted to claim eminent domain on their project. A district judge ultimately ordered the city to drop those claims.

The subject property has been zoned for multi-family housing since 1996, and other housing projects had been approved by the city in the past, albeit the previous projects had less housing density. In the petition, the developer claims that the Woodsonia West project is in compliance with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Similar claims were made against the city by another company, Vantage Point Properties, a few years ago. The city was cleared of wrongdoing in that case.

The city and its attorney, Ellis Rainey, declined to comment on the pending litigation. Neither the developer nor its representative responded to requests for comment.