Stop Rezoning Prairie Village, a group of residents who have opposed the city’s housing recommendations for much of the last year, now wants to reconfigure the Prairie Village City Council.
Through an open records request, the Post obtained copies of five petitions the Stop Rezoning group submitted to the county in April for review.
The group has been actively circulating at least three of those petitions in recent weeks, attempting to gain enough signatures to present to the city council for approval in time for the Nov. 7 ballot.
The petitions, according to the copies the Post obtained, seek to put an item related to rezoning before voters, as well as two items that would restructure Prairie Village city government, including most notably, cutting the size of the city council in half.
Stop Rezoning PV leaders did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
The group has kept the petitions’ language mostly under wraps, only sharing some hard copies at petition-signing events.
At one such event earlier this month, Stop Rezoning PV leaders allowed a Post reporter to view one of the three petitions but refused to give the Post copies of any of the proposals.
Here’s what we know about the petitions so far:
Who is gathering the signatures?
Stop Rezoning PV, a group that has vehemently opposed the city’s housing recommendations, is behind the petition drive.
The city’s housing recommendations were proposed by a special committee last year and are aimed at addressing housing affordability and potentially diversifying the city’s housing stock.
On their website, the Stop Rezoning group calls themselves a “bipartisan group of diverse homeowners” with concerns about changing the city’s current zoning regulations.
They’ve argued that the housing recommendations, if implemented, could take property rights away from homeowners and open up more developments in single-family neighborhoods.
But some city councilmembers have pushed back against the group’s claims, saying their comments — made frequently at city council meetings — are filled with “scare-mongering” and misinformation.
What do the petitions say about rezoning?
The group filed five petitions with the county but appears to only be actively promoting three at signature-gathering events, as well as in emails sent to residents who have signed up for the group’s notifications.
One petition would limit “rezoning that would allow accessory dwelling units.” An accessory dwelling unit could be an attached or detached secondary house, such as a granny flat.
It also calls for limiting any other dwellings that allow for more than one family to live on a lot in a single-family zoning district, which is the majority of Prairie Village. The city of Shawnee made a similar change last year to its code, defining a family and restricting co-living situations in single family-districts. Shawnee now faces a federal lawsuit over that change.
A separate petition “regarding rental safety” suggests that all rental properties should be considered commercial and comply with commercial zoning codes. But the Stop Rezoning group does not appear to be actively circulating this petition.
What do the petitions say about city government?
Two other petitions the group has been circulating go beyond rezoning concerns and deal with broader proposed changes to how Prairie Village city government is structured.
One of these petitions calls for “the abandonment of the mayor-council form of government,” an attempt to limit mayoral authority and rid the city of what the group calls a “strong mayor” form of government.
The other petition calls for the adoption of a “mayor-council-manager” form of government and specifically seeks to have the number of city councilmembers cut in half, from the current 12 down to six.
This petition states that only councilmembers elected in 2023 — this coming November’s elections — will serve on the city council going forward. The terms for councilmembers elected before this year, according to the petition language, would end.
Another petition seeks to limit any mayor or councilmember from serving for more than eight years in office, but the group does not appear to be circulating this item either.
Read all five petitions below.
*Note: These versions were submitted to the county for review on April 25 and the group may have changed them, though the Post is not able to tell for sure since the group has not shared them with us.
How many signatures do they need?
The group previously told the Post the goal is to get 2,000 signatures for the rezoning petition and 3,000 signatures for each of the two government-related petitions.
Stop Rezoning PV did not respond to the Post’s request for comment for this story, but earlier this month organizer Lori Sharp, who has also filed to run for city council this year, told KCMO 710 Talk Radio, that the group needs a couple thousand signatures.
When asked if she thought the group would reach its goal, Sharp said “Oh, absolutely.”
When do they need to submit these petitions to get the issues on the November ballot?
Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman told the Post that the general deadline for ballot items to be submitted for the November ballot is Sept. 1.
Sharp told KCMO 710 that if the group gets the petitions and signatures turned in by Aug. 1, then these issues may be on the November ballot.
Any petition language, however, must be submitted to the city council for approval.
What does the county say?
Johnson County’s legal department signed off on the petitions but raised some concerns with Stop Rezoning PV.
It’s standard practice for the county to review proposed petitions for formatting and wording and not for the actual substance or content of such documents.
The group submitted the petitions to the county legal department for review on April 25, according to documents obtained by the Post. This was the third time the group had submitted similar petitions for review to the county.
In a response to Rex Sharp, a Stop Rezoning PV group member, Assistant County Counselor Mary Buhl said the rezoning petition conforms with state statute — but she had caveats.
The petitions related to the structure of city government — including the one to abandon the “strong mayor” and halve the city council — did not conform with state statute, according to Buhl.
Additionally, Buhl’s letter noted that those government-related petitions, if put before voters, could result in one passing and the other not passing, “which could produce contradictory results and may not be appropriate for a ballot.”
In response to the Post, Buhl said neither she nor anyone from the county legal department would be able to comment on the petitions for this story.
Read the county’s entire letter responding to Stop Rezoning’s petitions: