Shawnee city council approves Kenneth Smith rezoning
The historical Kenneth Smith property in Shawnee is moving closer to becoming a residential subdivision.
At its meeting on Aug. 13, the city council unanimously approved rezoning of the lush 60-acre site to planned single family.
Developers with The Alpert Companies, LP, plan to develop 92 single family residential lots in the former golf course setting, which will provide the opportunity for maintenance-provided villas in a variety of types, sizes and styles.
Sitting on the south side of 71st street, between Quivira and Pflumm roads, the site was formerly where the Kenneth Smith Golf Club manufacturing facility produced golf clubs from 1936 to 2003, which were popular among celebrities, U.S. presidents and even royalty.
It also featured a popular golf course.
Developer Jeff Alpert told the council he wants to honor the land’s historical significance.
In addition to the high-end subdivision, his company plans to retain the historical Smith residence by renovating it into a modern, liveable home.
Approximately one-third of the site, primarily the southern portion, will be preserved as open space, resulting in enhanced privacy for many of the residences.
The project also aims to preserve 20 acres of previously undisturbed forested area, including the existing east and center ponds.
“The terrain is beautiful,” Alpert said. “It also has the unique historical character that makes it special. The history of Kenneth Smith and how he became a golf club manufacturer many years ago and built a business in Shawnee that became world-renowned is a great story and it deserves to be told and somehow memorialized by doing the right thing with the site he built his business on.”
The site has a few challenges, however.
Because of the manufacturing nature of the site, there are residual environmental issues to be addressed and mitigated.
Alpert confirmed to the planning commission on July 16 his team intends to remove all structures relating to the golf club manufacturing activity and dispose of environmentally undesirable materials in an approved and safe manner.
In addition, there are residual chemicals relating to the maintenance of the golf course tees and greens in contaminated soils which will also be removed from the site, which will be performed under the jurisdiction of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Last week, Alpert reiterated to the council he plans to bring the site up to more-than-suitable standards for residential living.
The project also faces stormwater and traffic concerns from residents living adjacent to the site.
To address traffic concerns, the developer agreed to meet with the Shawnee city traffic engineer to discuss potential traffic calming measures.
The project will also feature extensive stormwater management plans which will be reviewed and accepted by city staff at a later date.
During the public hearing portion of the city council meeting, several residents re-addressed those concerns to the governing body.
Shawnee resident Mark Holmstrom, who lives in the Fairway Hills subdivision, was one of a few residents who insisted a traffic study should be conducted for the project.
He worried the new subdivision would worsen traffic in an area where neighborhood kids walk to and from Good Shepherd Catholic School.
He also worried it would create even more overflow by the Fairway Hills neighborhood pool. The Shawnee dad pointed out that Good Shepherd parents who don’t live in Fairway Hills often use the pool parking lot and nearby streets as a way to pick up their kids from school.
“My children live here and their wellbeing and safety is paramount to me,” Holmstrom said. “They go that little stretch two times a day and in the summer time, they’re at the pool all the time, so I want to make sure they’re safe.”
In response to traffic concerns, Shawnee traffic manager Kevin Manning told the council that based on calculations done on the additional cars the subdivision would potentially bring during peak hours, city staff was comfortable an increase in traffic would not be a significant issue.
Another resident, Xenia Black, told the council she didn’t understand why there needed to be a subdivision built on the historical property.
“We’re destroying the beauty of that property,” she said. “I understand growth is good. I know plenty of people who have moved into that area because of the golf course and because of that view. So, we’re going to put 92 more cookie-cutter homes for what? Where are those kids going to go to school?”
She added, “How is that honoring Kenneth Smith? The history is a big part of Shawnee. We need to figure out how to honor that. Personally, I would love to see it turned into a park.”
Her passionate remarks drew applause from the audience.
In response, Councilman Mickey Sandifer told the large crowd that when the Kenneth Smith property became available for purchase, he reached out to the real estate attorney to see what could be done to turn the site into a legacy for Kenneth Smith.
But, his attempts were not met with enthusiasm, he said.
“At this time, the city can’t afford to buy that property and build a park on it,” Sandifer told the residents in attendance. “We can’t tell a developer no. We can’t tell them you can’t develop this piece of property. All we can do is guide them and try to get the best development we can get that will have the least amount of impact on anybody.”
At the end of the public hearing, one resident echoed that sentiment.
Lifetime Shawnee resident Leo Nunnink told the council he appreciates the sentimental value of the property because his dad worked at the Kenneth Smith manufacturing site for 40 years.
He agreed the city can’t afford to turn the site into a park and he pointed out the property is privately owned.
He worries that if nothing is done to the property, the site will continue to deteriorate. He pointed out that vandalism often occurs on that property.
“They have a quality developer how is willing to put in a good project,” he said. “If we sit here and continue to push this back, the developer will say ‘thanks but no thanks.’ We will sit here with another project two or three years from now that is probably going to be less desirable.”
He added, “At the end of the day, I understand a lot of your points. I get it. But I would appreciate the city’s support getting this developed. Otherwise, it’s going to be sitting there for many more years and be careful what you wish for.”
To learn more about The Alpert Companies, visit alpertco.com.
To learn more in-depth details about the project, visit cityofshawnee.org.