January 26, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

The planning commission voted this week to recommend approval by the city council of the Artisan Point apartment complex. The multifamily housing development has undergone many changes since its original consideration by the planning commission in October, including cutting the number of units nearly in half.

Initially proposed as a two-phase 584-unit complex, the preliminary development plan has been condensed to 282 units in a single-phase development. The development was also cut from 51 buildings on 35.36 acres to 26 buildings on 16.87 acres. The complex would be a mix of two- and three-story buildings with one- and two-bedroom units located near SE Blackwell Road and SE Blue Parkway. They are expected to be rented at market rates, starting at $1,000 per month.

At the planning commission’s first public hearing, commissioners agreed to put their consideration on hold while adjustments were made to the city’s comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan is a living document that indicates long-term development aims of the city. During the creation of the last plan in 2005, this particular site did not receive a land use designation.

The planning commission, who are responsible for the comprehensive plan, voted to amend it at their Jan. 10 meeting to indicate the land as medium-density residential.

Many area residents have been vocal about their opposition to the project, citing safety concerns and school overcrowding with its proximity to Highland Park Elementary, as well as potential increases in traffic, noise and crime.

The land was previously zoned for agricultural use and any development would require a rezoning application. Many neighboring property owners have stressed that they are open to development of the land but don’t feel that multifamily housing is appropriate for the location.

Commissioner Carla Dial stressed that the commission had heard the feedback from the public but added that development is coming whether this project is approved or not.

“That side of town will be developed,” Dial said.

The development will require a modification to the universal development ordinance (UDO) to increase the density to 16.72 units per acre, up from the standard maximum of 12 units per acre.

Initially described as “luxury” apartment housing, many comments – both from commissioners and the public – focused on what exactly that meant and how it would be maintained to high standards. In the revised plan, the developer intentionally left out any mention of “luxury” because people “got hung up” on that. Still, Case & Associates got questions about whether breezeways instead of closed corridors, Formica instead of granite countertops, and a lack of elevators in three-story buildings is in line with the quality some think Lee’s Summit residents expect.

Chairperson Jason Norbury also asked that the city set clearer guidelines on what it is looking for in multifamily housing. Referencing a 2017 study that showed Lee’s Summit could support an additional 2,300 market-rate apartment units over the next ten years, Norbury said it would be very helpful for the commission to know whether the city wants apartments – and what kind and where.

“I’m going to strongly encourage the city council to answer that question,” Norbury said.

Commissioners Dial, Dana Arth and Jake Loveless voted against the motion to recommend approval to the city council. All commissioners were present at the Jan. 24 session.