By Stephanie Edwards
Members City Council expressed concerns over a proposed development for 76 acres located at the northeast corner of SW Pryor Road and SW Hook Road, just north of Hawthorne Hill Elementary School and west of Lee’s Summit West High School. Known as the Whispering Woods development, the plan is proposed in six phases, totaling 164 single-family lots during the March 2 regular council meeting.
Bryan Glenn, an engineer with Phoenix Engineering and representing the builder, Whispering Woods Land, LLC, addressed the Council. He said that the request for the change in zoning classification was similar to that which had been in the neighboring Eagle Creek subdivision.
During his presentation, Glenn explained that the process was outlined the way that it was because of a complicated process required to have a portion of the development reclassified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because a part of the land is currently a flood plain. The work requires initial approval by the agency, construction, and surveys so that the area could be removed from the flood plain classification.
But council members began to question the flood plain aspect of the development.
“In the history of Lee’s Summit we have had to fix or buy homes because of flooding,” Councilmember Trish Carlyle said. “We don’t want to do that again.” She said that the council receives pictures all the time from developments built around water with fill-ins. “This scares me if we do this, If we put houses there,” she said. “God forbid science is right and we have floods.”
Glenn assured the council that the third phase would not be able to commence until the changes are accepted by FEMA. Councilmember Rob Binney asked if Mouse Creek was to be “filled in.”
“There is no plan to fill in Mouse Creek,” Glenn said. Mouse Creek has to be analyzed to ensure no homes will flood and the floodplain area will be filled in, he said.
Councilmember Diane Forte said that she seen three “hundred year floods” had occurred within ten years.
Dena Metzger from the public works department explained that many older housing developments in the city had been built at a time when the City’s standards were much lower. “We have changed the standard so dramatically,” she said.
Councilmember Dave Mosby asked if the solution was to “build up and beg FEMA to modify the map?”
“I would not use the word ‘beg,’” Glenn said.
Councilmember Mosby questioned whether the relief mechanism was to allow the flood waters to build up and then allow to run over the road?
Councilmember Chris Moreno questioned if any flooding does occur, who would be responsible? He directed his question to the city attorney Brian Head. “Do we open ourselves up to that, or is the developer responsible,” he asked.
“If flooding occurs with someone in a floodplain the city generally would not have responsibility,” Head said.
Councilmember Carlyle questioned who had the responsibility to inform the homeowners that their properties had been raised out of a floodplain.
“It is on the buyer to do due diligence to research that,” Glenn said.
“That is my worry,” Carlyle said.
Robert Gardner owns property on Hook Road next to the development. “I think that there is a little bit of false pretenses with the water flow,” he said. “I’ve lived out there 40 years and our tracts slope to the back.” He indicated that the tracts on the map slope down. “You talk about the hundred year floods; there has been three of them,” he said. “I’ve seen it go over the road at Pryor and Hook. The City actually built new culverts in that intersection because it kept going over the road.”
“I’ve seen it go over our properties eight-foot deep three different times,” Gardner continued. He said he had built a pond on the top of his property, and flood waters went over the bank and washed it out. “There is a lot of water flow that is not being talked about here,” he said. Gardner and his neighbors presented a petition asking the builder to provide berms and a fence to help reduce the water flow.
“I am not comfortable with the water issues,” Councilmember Forte said.
Councilmember Craig Faith stated that he agreed with Forte. Faith has a background in public safety and emergency planning. “I’ve dealt with hydrology reports and flood plans,” he said. “Using those plans we put our people there and ended up with two rescue personnel standing on a stage at a school holding kids up with water up to their chests. My point is the best made plans, Mother Nature seems to supersede those plans over and over again.” He said he believed the developer had painstakingly looked over the plans, but “there are already buyers who have already bought who have been affected by this.”
“We have revealed many, many negatives on this unfortunately,” Councilmember Mosby said. “We are using roads as flood relief and when those roads are destroyed by the flood, who’s going to pay for it? Taxpayers.”
“I agree with Councilmember Mosby,” Councilmember Moreno said. “I feel like this development goes against everything we have been talking about for the last six months.”
Councilmember Rob Binney moved to continue the public hearing until May 18.
Councilmember Mosby asked to table the issue. He moved to deny the change in zoning classification. The Council voted to deny the application with a 6-2 vote.