Lenexa tables plans for Watercrest South project, citing concerns over high-density apartments

After three hours of discussion with the owners/developers and public comment from neighboring homeowners, the Lenexa City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to table the preliminary and conceptual plans and related rezoning items on the proposed Watercrest South and Copper Creek Apartments, a sprawling residential development near K-7 Highway.

Lenexa city leaders have again delayed plans for Watercrest South, a sprawling residential development near K-7 Highway, citing concerns with the higher-density of apartments next to the single-family homes already in the neighborhood.

After three hours of discussion with the owners and developers — Q.C. Development, P and L Development LLC and Watercrest South LLC — as well as public comment from neighboring homeowners, the Lenexa City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to table the preliminary and conceptual plans and related rezoning items on the project.

The proposal is up for city council consideration again on Dec. 15.

Background on project and revisions

An aerial view of the Copper Creek Apartments and Townhouses.

Located on 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 conceptual plans for a multi-family apartment, senior housing and commercial development.

The Copper Creek Apartments — the most contentious piece of the sprawling development due to its high level of density — would be located on the northern end of the site, across Woodsonia from the single-family homes already built or under construction in Watercrest Landing.

The proposal calls for about 24 dwelling units per acre in the apartments, compared with the Watercrest Landing site zoned at one unit per acre.

The city council on Aug. 18 considered and remanded the proposal to the planning commission for reconsideration of several items, particularly the apartments’ high density, architectural design and location next to the Watercrest Landing single-family homes.

The planning commission met Oct. 6 and again recommended approval of the project that underwent some revisions, including:

  • A reduction of planned apartment units, from 688 to 679 at Copper Creek
  • Lowered residential zoning for the “Big Houses” that also act as a buffer between the Copper Creek Apartments and single-family homes
  • Changed architecture/design of the “Big Houses” of nine units each to make them look more like single-family homes
  • Extended the “Big Houses” in Copper Creek to continue along Woodsonia and moved the southernmost apartment building further west and away from Watercrest Landing single-family homes

Here are the new preliminary design renderings for some of the apartments, townhomes and “Big Houses”:

Copper Creek Apartments
Copper Creek Townhouses
Copper Creek Townhouses
Copper Creek Big House
Copper Creek Big House

Councilmembers, residents push back against high density of Copper Creek

Neighboring residents brought signs asking for no high density on the apartments.

While city leaders and neighboring residents showed general support for most of the project, councilmembers were most hesitant when it came to the high density of the apartments.

Several neighbors, many of whom had signs, came out in opposition to the Copper Creek Apartments. Seven neighbors gave public comment, including Molly Williams, who said she and other homeowners were against the project.

“There’s kind of this strong-man argument that keeps getting pushed against us to kind of simplify us, that we just don’t want anything built there, that we’re so against it; we’re not,” Williams said. “We’re against high density. It is simply the high density that is so close to our single-family neighborhood… Please don’t take this lightly, city council, please hear us, please honor what you said.”

Some councilmembers echoed comments from residents, noting that they believe higher density residential is more appropriate in other parts of the city.

“I look at this part of Lenexa that we should not want density here,” said Councilmember Bill Nicks. “This whole area is a respite from density, and I believe it should remain so.”

Some councilmembers said they believe the project would still have enough revenues to cover the costs to complete Woodsonia, even with reducing the density of Copper Creek Apartments.

However, Curtis Holland with the Polsinelli law firm, a representative for the owners and developers, said the viability of the entire project hinges on the high density of the apartments, which would provide revenues to finance completion of Woodsonia Road. The developers estimated Woodsonia could cost about $6.5 million to complete.

“While beautiful, it’s not pristine, in terms of the area that goes around it,” Holland said of the proposed site for the apartments. “We’re not going to make it worse by having some multi-family here on the west side (of Woodsonia).”

“I think for the betterment of the community and the long-term health of the community, we need to get this right,” said Mayor Mike Boehm.

Councilmembers also raised concerns about the project’s phasing, which could stretch over several years, as well as plans for residential amenities at Watercrest Landing that would include a swimming pool and clubhouse.

The city had previously heard grievances from residents noting that the developer of Watercrest Landing did not make good on a promise for amenities. However, after further discussion, the council seemed to shy away from making any requirements for amenities because they wanted to avoid setting a precedent for future residential projects.

Scott McCullough, community development director, said the city is requiring the owners to complete the partially built stretch of Woodsonia Road/Drive between 83rd Street and Prairie Star Parkway before construction of the Copper Creek Apartments could begin.

Holland said they are unsure if they can afford building Woodsonia in a single phase, so the developers collaborated with city staff on a phasing plan that would prevent or limit construction traffic through the Watercrest Landing single-family neighborhood. Some of those plans include installation of gates along Woodsonia to block construction traffic from passage on 89th Street.

Ultimately, the council agreed to put a pause on the project to give the owners/developers the opportunity to reevaluate the density issue of the apartments, and possibly switching out the proposed senior living project on the southern end with the proposed apartments to the north.

“Thank you for letting us make sausage, but I would rather not move forward on things tonight that we’re going to regret later and have to go back and redo all of this and carve out different lines,” said Mayor Mike Boehm. “I think for the betterment of the community and the long-term health of the community, we need to get this right.”