Lenexa City Council remands large-scale residential development Watercrest and Copper Creek to planning commission

Lenexa has put a pause on Watercrest and Copper Creek, a large-scale residential development near K-7 Highway. The decision allows the developer and city staff to collaborate on some changes to the plans for Copper Creek Apartments and Townhomes, a contentious leg of the project that is planned to be built next to the single-family homes in Watercrest Landing North.

After four hours of discussions, the Lenexa City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to remand plans for a large-scale residential development near K-7 Highway to the planning commission. The decision allows the developer and city staff to collaborate on some changes to the plans for Copper Creek Apartments and Townhomes, a contentious leg of the project.

Located on about 187 acres of farmland at the southwest corner of Monticello Road and 90th Street, the proposed Watercrest South and Copper Creek project consists of a mix of high-rise multi-family apartment and townhomes, single-family homes, and concept plans for a multi-family apartment, senior housing and commercial development.

The apartments dominated the evening’s conversations, as 688 units are proposed to be built next to the single-family homes in Watercrest Landing North.

Neighbors, city council oppose high density, saying apartments may not fit with the area

Molly Williams and seven of her neighbors spoke out against the development of apartments next to their neighborhood, Watercrest Landing North. Their concerns centered on the high density and possible negative impacts to their property values, traffic congestion, crime and character of the neighborhood.

Neighboring residents in Watercrest Landing North came out in opposition to the apartments, particularly because the proposed rezoning for the apartments would allow the city’s highest density next to their neighborhood. About two dozen neighbors attended the meeting, and eight of them shared their concerns in public comments. City leaders also received numerous emails and phone calls from residents opposing the apartments.

“I am not against apartments in Lenexa, I’m not against that area being developed,” said Molly Williams, a neighboring resident. “I think that the apartments that have been designed are absolutely gorgeous, I love the contemporary architecture. I do not think apartments are appropriate next to our neighborhood.”

The neighbors were also concerned with possible negative impacts to their property values, increased traffic congestion (especially to the city-owned Black Hoof Park), a possible increase in crime, and the architectural contrast of the modern-style apartments to their homes. 

The residents submitted a protest petition, although city staff reported that it was invalid because it lacked enough signatures from neighbors who own property within the 200-foot buffer of the site for the apartments.

Several councilmembers said they believed the apartments, with the highest density allowed in the city and the differences in their architectural style compared with Watercrest Landing North, demonstrate that Copper Creek may not fit with the character of the neighborhood.

The city council asked the owners of the site — Q.C. Development, P & L Development LLC., and Watercrest South LLC — to consider making some revisions to the apartments: Specifically, to lower the density and shift taller buildings further away from the single-family neighborhood.

Developer says high density is critical to financing completion of Woodsonia

“If the majority here wants to kill apartments and not have us have any apartments here to help us build that road, you need to tell us now so that we don’t waste our time. But if you’re willing to work with us, we’re willing to work with you,” said Curtis Holland, a Polsinelli attorney representing the developer. Holland said the success of the project and completion of Woodsonia Drive (which the developer is financing) hinges on the high density of apartments.

Curtis Holland with the Polsinelli law firm, a representative for the developer, said the higher density of the apartments is necessary for them to finance construction of Woodsonia Drive, a future local collector street running north-south through the area. Early estimates to build the collector street are $5 million, although Holland expects it will cost more than that. The developer, not the city, would pay to build Woodsonia.

“This road is not going to get built on the back of a coffee shop,” Holland said to the city council, referring to suggestions that the apartments be replaced with more retail uses. “I understand the concerns the residents have with this… We’d be OK with a remand to study those issues, to figure out how we can shift some things around, and come back to you guys with a plan. 

“If the majority here wants to kill apartments and not have us have any apartments here to help us build that road, you need to tell us now so that we don’t waste our time. But if you’re willing to work with us, we’re willing to work with you.”

The developers have already decreased the height and mass of the apartments along Woodsonia, instead planning for “big house” manor-style apartments. Several city leaders also requested that these apartments facing Watercrest Landing North would look more like single-family residential style and less like smaller apartment buildings.

The council’s decision follows Mayor Mike Boehm’s advice to treat the entire project — the majority of which comprises single-family homes — as one unit to be approved, rejected or remanded to the Lenexa Planning Commission.

“If they can’t achieve the dollars they need to make this feasible and build our road, we just stop the road and everything else and ruin what should be a great opportunity for us on this site,” Boehm cautioned.

Holland also assured the city council that the developer is “100% committed” to finishing Woodsonia. City leaders said it’s critical to finish Woodsonia in a single phase.

Councilmember Julie Sayers suggested flip-flopping the apartments on the northern end with the retail/hotel/senior housing planned on the southern end. Boehm said putting retail too far from major arterial streets like 83rd and Prairie Star Parkway will “doom it to die.”

Holland said the developers will meet with city staff and work on possible revisions to the plan before presenting again to the planning commission at a future meeting.