Mallory Herrmann

Lee’s Summit is again facing questions about a shortage of affordable housing within the city. The city’s planning commission held a public hearing on a proposed single-family home development near Chipman and Pryor Roads. It quickly sparked broader questions about the city’s housing market, particularly for renters and first-time homebuyers.

The proposed Woodside Ridge community includes 206 lots planned for a two-phase development on the 112 acres north of Third Street and west of Pryor Road, just south of the John Knox Village care center. The community would include 44 maintenance-provided “villa lots” expected to be priced in the low $300,000s. The remaining lots are anticipated to sell in the $400,000 range.

The land is currently zoned RP-3, which allows single-family and lower density multi-family structures (such as duplexes and triplexes). The preliminary development plan includes a request to rezone the property to RP-1 (single-family residences).

Commissioner Colene Roberts wondered why city staff would recommend using such a “prime piece of real estate” for more single-family homes when there is a shortage of apartments and other affordable housing options.

Hector Soto, planning manager, explained that the existing RP-3 zoning is a remnant of a John Knox Village plan to expand across Pryor in the 1970s. He said that it would not be the proper zoning for more dense multi-family units, as in an apartment complex.

The commission’s chair, Jason Norbury, echoed Roberts’ sentiment, noting that the average purchase cost of an existing home is $175,000 and $350,000 for a new home – a barrier for first-time homebuyers. He suggested that the city is “not working well to provide a stock of affordable housing for residents.”

“The applicant hasn’t done anything wrong,” Norbury said, “but awful hard to approve them.”

Bob McKay, director of planning and special projects, spoke up during the end-of-meeting roundtable to contend that point. He said that the biggest issue the city currently faces is that, due to such positive growth over many years, land prices are very high. That makes it difficult for developers to maintain a profit on less expensive homes. McKay said it’s a long-term issue and that Lee’s Summit is not the only city wrestling with it, but that they’re working with organizations like the Mid-America Regional Council and the city’s community and economic development committee to find solutions.

The commission voted to recommend approval of the Woodside Ridge plan, with Norbury and Roberts voting against. Commissioners Herman Watson and Jake Loveless were absent from the August 28 meeting.

The preliminary development plan will be considered for approval by the city council at a future regular session.