City of Shawnee cleared of wrongdoing in Vantage lawsuit
Recently released court documents reveal the City of Shawnee has been absolved of any wrongdoing in the council’s Jan. 2016 decision to deny plans for the proposed Vantage apartment complex.
Last week, Johnson County District Court Judge Paul Gurney determined the city “did not act in an unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious manner in denying the Vantage application.”
The City of Shawnee had been sued Feb. 2016 by Nebraska-based Qrivit LLC, for denying the project based on public opinion, rather than the project’s compliance with the Shawnee comprehensive plan.
The complaint directly quoted Councilmember Mickey Sandifer, who said after the vote to deny the project was completed, “I sided with the people and what they wanted. But I think it’s a very good project.”
Qrivit owns the undeveloped 28.66-acre tract of land west of Pflumm Road and north of 62nd Street, where the Vantage apartment complex was proposed to be built.
In 2014, the site was originally slated to have a project titled, “Cobblestone,” which included age-restricted single family villas, independent living facilities, commercial and office space, a walking trail and a lake.
A rezoning to allow the project on that site was approved by the city council that same year.
However, Qrivit later learned its development partner lacked the financial strength to proceed with the project.
The following year, it entered into a purchase agreement with America First Real Estate Group, LLC for the Vantage development plan.
The project was initially slated to have 312 apartment units in 14 buildings, with a clubhouse and swimming pool, among other amenities.
Dozens of residents living near the property voiced their disapproval of the project at numerous meetings, with the biggest concerns being the apartment buildings were too tall or close to single family homes, and it would increase traffic in the area.
On the Jan. 25, 2016 council meeting, the motion for rezoning failed, with Councilmen Jim Neighbor, Dan Pflumm, Eric Jenkins, Mike Kemmling and Mickey Sandifer voting against it.
The councilmembers who voted against the project said they were concerned the high-density project was not a good fit for the area, which is surrounded by a residential neighborhood; the height of the buildings was inappropriate and future traffic could be an issue, among other concerns.
The court documents also pointed out Councilman Sandifer voted against the application because he felt “the majority of people that lived in the city were opposed to the rezoning application because of the density and the height of the buildings.”
After reviewing the council’s decision to deny the project, Judge Gurney concluded the governing body’s concerns were justified.
The court documents stated the city demonstrated that it considered factors beyond the “plebiscite of the neighbors.”
“The surrounding property is a mature neighborhood, and a high-density infill (with a density higher than the recommended range) is not appropriate for the area,” Gurney stated. “The buildings’ proposed heights, in conjunction with significantly higher elevations, among other aesthetic issues, were properly considered.”
He also added, “The neighbors’ concerns may have reflected these considerations, but the source of the concerns does not undermine their legitimacy….Coupled with the deference afforded by the standard of review, the City did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying the application. The denial was reasonable.”
-Mike Frizzell of Operation 100 News contributed to this report.