Leawood advances plan for $50M development at 86th and State Line over neighbors’ objections

State Line development

The plan given preliminary approval by the Leawood City Council on Monday calls for more than 300,000 square feet of residential, retail and office space at 86th Street and State Line Road, just west of Ward Parkway Center. The proposal includes multi-story apartment and townhome buildings, like the one presented in the above rendering. Image via City of Leawood documents.

The Leawood City Council has approved rezoning and a preliminary plan for a proposed $50 million mixed-use development at 86th Street and State Line Road.

The move comes despite opposition from some nearby residents, who objected to the potential loss of green space, increased traffic and the development’s inclusion of drive-thru restaurants.

The details: According to council documents, the proposed project would sit on more than 12 acres of land southwest of 86th and State Line and include the following:

  • A four- to five-story building containing 243,375 square feet for 182 residential units, office, retail and a parking garage
  • Four three-story buildings with 24 townhomes totaling 52,800 square feet
  • A two-story, 12,000-square-foot office building
  • Two one-story, 4,000-square-foot drive-thru restaurants
  • Surface parking

The Leawood Planning Commission unanimously approved rezoning the property for mixed-use development on May 25.

The location: The development site sits across State Line to the west from Ward Parkway Center and its mix of retail, grocery stores and eateries.

The developer: The project’s developer, Doug Weltner with State Line 87 LLC, declined to comment following the council meeting.

Weltner is founder and CEO of Weltner Equities and executive vice president, an owner and a member of the Colliers International Kansas City office’s executive committee.

He specializes in mixed-use retail, office and multifamily developments, including Mission Farms, a 550,000-square-foot mixed-use project in Leawood.

He’s developed a number of other projects around Johnson County and the Kansas City region, including Highlands Village, a 575,000-square-foot mixed-use project, and Indian Creek Campus, a 400,000-square-foot office and medical park, which are both in Overland Park.

Opposition: Fourteen nearby residents addressed the council Monday, including Lee Schuenemeyer, who lives in the 8600 block of Sagamore Road near the proposed development site.

He told the Shawnee Mission Post following the meeting that nearly 120 petition signatures opposing the project had been gathered from June 13 through Tuesday.

Their concerns include:

  • Traffic congestion on streets connecting to 86th Terrace
  • Drive-thru restaurants potentially creating excessive noise, light and traffic, which would “degrade the quality of life” in the area
  • Building heights blocking nearby residents’ southern sky view
  • A rooftop lounge infringing on surrounding residential neighbors’ privacy
  • A short stretch of new sidewalks from the project to the north on State Line, encouraging pedestrians to walk in the street or through residents’ yards farther north
  • Lessened green space from removal of some trees and bushes on the project’s north and west borders

Schuenemeyer told the Post that he understood the council’s reasoning for its preliminary plan approval and that “there was an impetus set forth for the developer to make things right before the final vote.”

A project rendering shows a four-story image of a proposed apartment complex. The developer’s plan calls for a four- to five-story residential complex of 182 units, covering more than 240,000 square feet. Image via City of Leawood documents.

Addressing concerns: In his council presentation, Weltner said he had met with neighbors about 10 times in person or on Zoom starting last September and “felt like I did a good job addressing all the issues in a very sensitive manner.” He also said he was willing to continue meeting with nearby residents about their concerns with the project.

He said a recent traffic study showed “ample capacity on State Line to take care of our project.”

Drive-thru restaurants in the project’s preliminary plans served more as “placeholders,” and the sites could just as easily end up housing a bank, dry cleaner, pharmacy or bakery — not “a Taco Bell every time,” in Weltner’s words.

“Retail restaurant sites are so critical to our success and how we develop those,” Weltner said. “Why would I sacrifice … a $50 million multifamily and townhome project with one restaurant pad sale or lease? … Nobody in their right mind would do that. That’s not the kind of customer we’re going for to rent our apartment homes.”

He said he had been talking with nearby neighbors for nine months about how important green space was to them. The trees and underbrush bordering the project site on the north and west are “one of the reasons we bought the site.”

“We’re committed to saving as many trees and as much underbrush as possible,” he said.

Council reaction: Ward 1 Councilmember Andrew Osman suggested requiring the developer to add trees before anything is built on the site.

The council discussed the project for three hours at this week’s meeting and approved the preliminary plan by a 7-1 vote. Ward 4 Councilmember Julie Cain voted no.

“Mr. Weltner just made the comment he’s been doing it for nine months,” Cain said. “Well, we haven’t. This is the first time City Council has heard this. The idea that we potentially will vote yes on this with the assurance that at (the) final (vote) we’re going to address all these points — personally, I think that’s being short-sighted to the residents. It’s taking the power away from the residents.”

The council directed the public works committee to discuss at its Sept. 1 meeting potentially extending the median separating northbound and southbound traffic on State Line to prohibit northbound traffic from turning left, or west, onto 86th Terrace, and then to bring its recommendation to the council at its Sept. 20 meeting.

Resident Mary Horvatin asked the council why it wouldn’t reexamine the project’s plans, given the number and types of neighbors’ concerns.

“We love these neighborhoods,” Horvatin said. “We love old Leawood.”

Resident Steve Hentzen asked the council to “please represent us.”

Osman said, “Yes, we’re representing you but we also represent the 40,000 people of Leawood, and we have to look short and long term as to the development and long-term vision for the city.”