The controversial Allera housing development proposed near SW Pryor Road and M-150 Highway has been moved forward for a second reading – but is in danger of failing approval.
After a lengthy public hearing during the city council’s Jan. 22 meeting, the council voted with five votes in favor and four against to move the ordinance to a second reading. They’ll vote on whether to approve the preliminary development plan at their next session, scheduled for Feb. 5 at 6:00 p.m. Because the city received a protest petition with at least 30 percent of area residents’ signatures, the plan will require a supermajority vote from the council to approve it. If the votes don’t change, they’ll be one vote short of meeting that requirement.
The discussion ranged from the quality of materials used and lot widths to school capacity and parking concerns, and into even larger issues like the affordability of homebuying in Lee’s Summit and whether too many modifications are being allowed to the unified development ordinance (UDO).
The proposed development includes 159 single-family homes, ranging from 1,300 to 1,900 square feet. The homes would all have either three or four bedrooms and a two-car garage. The development would feature open green spaces, an open-air clubhouse, a pool and playground, a hammock garden, and walking trails, and it would be governed by a homeowners’ association.
The developer said the homes would fill a need in the community for new-construction housing at a lower price point, citing an average new-construction cost of $403,742 in Lee’s Summit compared to an average resale home cost of $263,707. Referencing first-time homebuyers, civil servants, and millennials seeking a higher-density product, the development is designed to offer a new housing product in the $200,000 range.
Modifications to UDO requirements include minimum lot widths of 38 feet instead of 50 feet, a minimum rear yard setback of 15 feet instead of 20 feet, and the elimination of low-impact landscape buffer on the west-side property line. The modifications were supported by city staff and the preliminary development plan, including these modifications, was recommended for council approval with a unanimous vote from the planning commission in December. Commissioners Donnie Funk, Jake Loveless and Herman Watson were absent from that meeting.
Councilmember Diane Forte said she thought the concept was appealing and would be welcome in Lee’s Summit, but felt it was too large for the site. She referenced similar developments in Austin, Tex., and the St. Louis area that only had about 60 lots, instead of the 159 proposed here.
“The density is just not right for this spot,” Forte said.
Councilmember Rob Binney said he thought the proposal was a novel concept but said the city shouldn’t be bending ordinances and making modifications to “allow this experiment to happen.”
“Let’s get rid of the fallacy that everybody should be able to afford a new house,” Binney said. “You don’t get a participation trophy because you want a house. You actually earn a house, you buy a house.”
“Lee’s Summit’s a community of a certain caliber,” Binney continued. “We expect that if you’re coming here, you’re working hard to afford that house, you’re going to earn that house. It’s not going to be given to you and it’s not going to be easy.”
His comments were met with applause from members of the public, most of whom spoke out against the plan during the public hearing.
Councilmember Bob Johnson disagreed with Binney, saying that while the city wouldn’t be able to create a product for everyone and though not everyone would be able to afford new-construction housing, there needs to be more options for younger and first-time homebuyers.
Mayor Bill Baird agreed: “We have all these options in the community. This is another option. It’s a great option.”
Councilmembers Binney, Forte, Trish Carlyle and Craig Faith voted against the motion for a second reading.