Shawnee may face development challenges following Vantage apartments decision, developer says
The Shawnee City Council’s decision to deny a $35 million apartment complex on Pflumm Road could have lasting impact on Shawnee’s chances to attract multi-family developments in the future, a local developer says.
On Jan. 25, the council decided not to approve a zoning request and preliminary plan for Vantage at Shawnee apartments, a 312-unit gated apartment complex on 28 acres on the northwest corner of 62nd Street and Pflumm Road. Area developers were watching closely to see what the city would decide on the issue.
Kevin Tubbesing, a metro-area commercial real estate developer and owner of The Land Source, said developers always keep their eyes on projects around the city to see how different city councils rule on projects. While he wouldn’t comment specifically on the Vantage at Shawnee proposal, he said denying projects like it, in any city, could cause a negative ripple effect for future development.
“It puts a very significant dampening effect on the market for that type of project,” Tubbesing said.
He said almost all major development projects in and around the Kansas City area require some sort of zoning request. He said developers pay close attention to which cities follow their land-use guides and comprehensive plans, rather than relying on public sentiment about a specific company or developer.
According to state law, governing bodies can reject rezoning proposals based on eight reasons. The reasons, called the Golden Factors, were established following the Kansas Supreme Court case Golden v. Overland Park in 1978. Those factors are:
• Does the development fit with the character of the neighborhood?
• Does it match or fit with the zoning and uses of property nearby?
• Is the property suitable for the uses to which it has been restricted under its existing zoning?
• Does the extent to which removal of the current zoning restrictions detrimentally affect nearby property?
• Has the property remained vacant due to zoning restrictions?
• What is the relative gain to the public health, safety and welfare by destruction of value of the applicant’s property as compared to the hardship on other individual landowners?
• Does the city’s professional staff recommend it?
• Does it conform with the comprehensive plan?
Each of the eight Golden Factors legally requires factual evidence to support the denial of a request.
For the Vantage at Shawnee project proposal, arguments were made both for and against several of these factors. The city’s professional staff and Planning Commission recommended approval of the project and said it matched the city’s Land Use Guide for the property, while residents of the area argued it did not match or fit with the surrounding area given that most of it is zoned single-family residential.
City governing bodies can run into trouble if they don’t follow those Golden Factors in deciding on a zoning request change. There have been several lawsuits against Johnson County cities since the Golden case, including one currently pending against Prairie Village.
“It’s important for governments to respect the comprehensive plan and land-use guide, because that is seen as an invitation to developers to come up with projects that meet those guidelines,” Tubbesing said.
According to Tubbesing, a former Shawnee city councilman, if governing bodies go against the established land-use guide, it can cause developers to view a city as anti-development and not supportive of business.
That negative sentiment can make developers shy away from ever presenting preliminary plans to a city because of how expensive they are to produce. Tubbesing said developers have to do almost 90 percent of the civil engineering needed to construct a project just to create a proposal. The engineering, combined with legal fees and architectural renderings, can cost a developer anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000.
Tubbesing said many developers won’t risk that if they’ve seen a city go against other similar projects.
Andrew Nave, executive director of the Shawnee Economic Development Council, isn’t worried so much about a “dampening effect” on developers looking at multi-family projects in Shawnee, but he is concerned about Shawnee’s ability to capitalize on the momentum of multi-family housing in Kansas City.
Nave pointed out that thousands of multi-family units are being constructed all around Shawnee in Kansas City, Kan., Lenexa and Overland Park. He said the “wave” of popularity for apartments began about six years ago and may not last much longer.
“That wave is cresting,” Nave said. “I don’t know how many more chances we’re going to get.
Nave also said that population density is key to retail and restaurant development. Without larger multi-family projects, Nave is concerned Shawnee may not be able to address the need citizens have for more shopping and dining options as soon as he would like.
“We need to get housing, dense housing before we get the retailers and restaurants people want,” Nave said.