Shawnee Planning Commission advances changes to land use guide
The Shawnee Planning Commission recently advanced changes to the city’s land use guide which would encourage mixed-use development at the Bellmont Promenade site.
The unanimous vote sends a formal recommendation to the city council.
The changes include an amendment to the land use guide of the city’s comprehensive plan, designating the area on the south side of Shawnee Mission Parkway, between Maurer Road and Renner Road, as mixed-use.
It also changes text in the Shawnee Mission Parkway corridor study indicating mixed-use development is appropriate for that area.
The planning commission’s vote comes a month after the developer of Bellmont Promenade indicated he is considering adding a residential component to the project, which is proposed to sit at the southwest corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Maurer.
That developer, Steve Beaumont, sent a letter to Shawnee Planning Director Paul Chaffee requesting the planning commission consider the changes.
Currently, the $59 million Bellmont Promenade project is set to feature a large shopping strip and five-to-seven pad sites, all for restaurant and retail.
In July, the city council approved a $19.5 million incentive package for the project.
At its meeting on March 19, several planning commissioners said they approved the land use amendments because they believe the area is suitable for mixed-use.
But their vote didn’t come without controversy.
Several residents took the stand during a public hearing at the meeting, asking the planning commission to table voting on the amendments until they received more clarity about what kind of residential component the developer wanted to add to Bellmont Promenade.
Shawnee resident Don Lysaught, who lives south of the proposed development, told the commission he was dismayed the developer didn’t reach out to nearby residents to update them on potential changes to the project.
He added he was upset about the lack of transparency and communication the developer showed the neighboring residents.
“Are we talking six story apartment buildings or two story apartment buildings?” he asked, frustrated. “How much residential? Where will they be located?"
He also wondered aloud if the changes to the development would affect the financial incentives the city approved for the project.
He told the commission it was important for the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods to be up-to-speed as the project progresses and changes, so everyone can be on the same page.
In response to his concerns, Chaffee told the commission that amendments to the land use guide do not rezone the land; it just makes the area eligible for a rezoning request.
He also pointed out that the Bellmont Promenade developer has not submitted an altered site plan or provided details about potential changes. The amendment to the land use guide would simply give the developer, or future developers, the option of mixed-use going forward.
Shawnee resident Alan Godsy, who also lives near the proposed development, agreed he is concerned about height and density of any potential residential component being added to the project.
With the land in the proposed area being one of the highest places in the city, he worries a high-rise apartment would tower over the adjacent homes.
Plus, he is wary of what kind of impact a residential component would have on traffic in the area.
A few other residents echoed similar concerns.
Shawnee resident Ray Erlichman told the commission he was leery of the developer.
After all, he pointed out, the development team initially told residents last year it was planning to bring big-name destination retailers and restaurants to the area.
But a marketing brochure placed on the Legacy Development website last month showed proposed tenants for Bellmont Promenade included Hobby Lobby and Dick’s Sporting Goods, two stores already located nearby in Merriam.
He questioned whether the developer was adding a residential component to the project because he couldn’t attract high-end destination retailers and restaurants.
And while Erlichman doesn’t live near the proposed Bellmont Promenade project site, he told the commission he thinks the nearby residents who spoke up at the meeting have very valid concerns.
Several planning commissioners agreed the residents brought up good points.
Many of them emphasized they approved amendments designating the area mixed-use because it was important to modernize the comprehensive plan.
Commission chairman Dennis Busby told the concerned residents that since the land in question has sat vacant for years, its current land use designation may be hindering potential development.
“The one thing that concerns me is a lot of the factors they (residents) are talking about are very relevant and I agree with them, except I don’t have a site plan,” he said. “Changing the land use guide does not rezone it or put a site plan in front of us, but it possibly gives a developer a chance to look at something that makes sense for him and would make sense for our community.”
Those important details, such as height and density and traffic, would definitely be scrutinized once a new site plan was submitted, he pointed out.
Commissioner Alan Willoughby concurred.
“The comprehensive plan never was intended to be all-inclusive and never-changing,” he said. “It’s not a static plan. We’re trying to improve the likelihood of this property being developed. That’s what’s important.”
Residents still have time to make their voices heard regarding the matter.
The proposed amendments to the comprehensive plan will go before the city council at a date yet to be determined.