On a split vote, the Leawood City Council approved plans for the next phases of a massive development near 135th Street and State Line Road, a project that has sparked strong opposition from neighbors.
The council on Monday evening voted 6-3 to grant final approval to the third and fourth phases of the East Village of Leawood project, with apartments, retail, restaurants and a park on 116 vacant acres. Mayor Peggy Dunn cast the deciding vote, since approval needed six “yes” votes.
Lenexa-based Oddo Development is building the $300 million project in six phases, with more than 600 luxury apartments, million-dollar homes, duplexes, an assisted living facility, a grocery store, retail, restaurants, offices and green space. And it’s stirred up controversy over the past few years, with neighbors and homeowner associations showing up in force to oppose the project due to concerns over traffic, density, building heights and aesthetics.
After making several adjustments, the developer last year won rezoning and preliminary approval from a split, 5-4 City Council vote, with the tie broken by the mayor. And this past March, the council voted 5-3 to grant final approval to the first two phases of construction, which will feature 26 single-family homes, 12 luxury duplexes and 26 apartment buildings.
The third and fourth phases, south of 133rd Street and east of Pawnee Lane, include 36 brownstone rowhouses, 327 apartments in four buildings, as well as retail, restaurant and office space. Plans also include a a nearly two-acre park with an amphitheater. And residents will have access to a rooftop pool, dog park and community garden.
Patrick Reuter, with Klover Architects, told the council that the development team is looking at events for the amphitheater, such as movie nights or theater programs.
As later phases of the project move through City Hall, officials have noted that they aren’t hearing from concerned residents as much. On Monday evening, Leawood homeowner Rachel Rubin said residents are “very discouraged.”
“We wrote in before, so many letters, so many emails. We had petitions. And people felt like our concerns were not listened to, as far as how people voted on the council. So I think that is why people are not writing in,” Rubin said. “…Residents are still opposed to this project.”
Curtis Holland, attorney representing the developers, said the team has made several adjustments to the project over the months to address concerns, including surrounding traffic and the site’s layout.
But council members on Monday were divided, with some raising concerns over parking and the addition of apartments.
“My hang-up is ownership versus rental. I really feel strongly about Leawood residents being invested in our community,” Councilwoman Mary Larson said. “And for phases three and four, I love the brownstone concept. I think the price point is a good price point. I just wish there were a whole bunch more of them. … And just in general in Johnson County, there’s a growing concern about the number of apartments that are going in in Johnson County.”
The developer previously said apartments would rent for a starting price of $1,800 a month for a one bedroom. And on Monday, developers said they expect the brownstone rowhouses to sell for about $550,000.
Councilwoman Julie Cain said she remains “fundamentally opposed” to the project, adding that she disagrees with the location of the four-story apartment buildings. City officials have been debating whether to limit the height of mixed-use buildings to four stories, a discussion raised during arguments over the East Village project.
One sticking point on Monday was the number of parking spots planned for the third and fourth phases. The developer plans to add nearly 800 spaces, but will wait to add 80 of those, keeping them as green space until they are needed. Some council members felt the development would need those parking spaces, especially around the park, which could draw crowds.
“I want those built now,” Councilwoman Lisa Harrison said. “I don’t want to have to fight in five years about there not being enough parking. … I think if you’re going to have all these great amenities, this great park, and you’re going to have luxury townhomes and people are going to entertain in these beautiful places, these green spaces and these fire pits, I think you need the parking.”
The developers said they moved more parking closer to the park and retail, and they would fill in more spots if needed. But they felt keeping green space would be “more important, because you can’t recoup it later.”
Councilman Andrew Osman said he would rather have the green space for now, rather than a “sea of parking or asphalt.”
The developers said Monday that they are working on securing building permits for the first phase of construction, as well as gathering interest from potential retailers for later phases. Single-family homes are expected to be built first.