September 2, 2002
On August 28, 2002, developers of Blue Valley Plaza, Inc., a proposed 31 acre commercial retail plan for the SE corner of 159th/Metcalf, submitted revisions of this plan to the Johnson County Planning Dept. Developers came under fire at the July 25, Board of County Commissioner's hearing, when the size and scope of the project raised concerns. Commissioners voted that this plan be returned to the Oxford Township Zoning Board for a rehearing on Sept. 19, 2002.
From Bad To Worse
(Click on image to see plan)
The new plan, although it reduces the size and orientation of the two big box stores and attempts to add a few (3.2) acres of high-density residential, has actually gone from bad to worse. The neighborhoods DO NOT support this new plan--as it still proposes basically the same plan for most of this acreage: a commercial retail center, instead of residential as called for by the master plan. New additions to this plan actually make it much worse than the previous plan.
The developers are proposing the following items:
1. Mislabel 7 Acres as Residential When it Should Only Be 3.2
7 acres of land will be relabeled as PRU-3, (Planned Urban Residential Townhome District, Duplex and Attached Single Family Development, 4,500 sq. ft per dwelling unit minimum). Eight, 3-plex units will be built along the back of the project next to Blue Valley Riding. This calculation of 7 acres as "residential" is, we feel, a deliberate attempt to mislead:
These 24 housing units sit on only 3.2 acres.
In order to come up with the 7 acre number, the developers have included the 1.648 acre detention pond, the quarter acre wetland area and its surrounding area and have drawn the zoning line down the center line of the newly proposed 40-foot "collector" road. In other words, they have simply relabeled land as residential without using it for residential.
By using these misleading calculations the developers can now say that nearly a fourth of this property has been turned into residential--when in actual truth only 3.2 acres, or 10%, is headed in the right direction.
2. PRU-3 Zoning Too Intense, More Misleading Accounting Used
The proposed PRU-3 zoning district is too intense next to Blue Valley Riding's RN-1, (Residential Neighborhood 1, Single Family Dwellings on Minimum 1 Acre Lot Size)
If you calculate 24 housing units on the actual 3.2 acres of land, this is a high intensity of about 7.5 units per acre.
The developers have again used their misleading calculation tricks to say this is only 3.42 housing units per acre by using 7 acres (see above) instead of the actual area of 3.2 acres. We are all frankly very tired of these continuing tricks to make this project appear better than it is. We would welcome 3.42 housing units per acre for the entire 31 acres.--if indeed this is actually the case;
but we cannot support a few mere acres of such high intensity as presently proposed--thrown in to placate the neighborhoods.
3. The Previous 25 foot Delivery Road Is Now a Major 40-foot Collector Road
The 25 foot delivery road behind the two big-box stores has been replaced with a new 40-foot wide road with "collector" status--in some places becoming 60 feet wide.
This road is much bigger than Lamar or Riggs to the east and is envisioned to continue in to the 40-acre "Turner Tract" to the south and also exit at a future 161st street signal.
Labeled by developers as the "major entrance" to Blue Valley Plaza, they intend for it to be a signalized intersection on 159th street--only about 165 feet from Blue Valley Riding property lines.
A Road of This Magnitude is Not Acceptable
A road of this size and magnitude is NOT acceptable to the surrounding neighborhoods--as this will become a major artery used to avoid the 159th/Metcalf intersection and will most certainly invite "similar patterns of development", as Andy Schlagel stated, on the neighboring Turner property.
Creating a road this size is surprising, especially after Commissioner Doug Wood questioned the 159th entrance to Blue Valley Plaza and stated that such a entrance should go on Metcalf, which is, after all, a highway status. The problem is, developers know that they cannot create a signalized entrance on Metcalf--
and the signal proposed on 159th street violates road plan (CARNP) guidelines which say that median cuts for intersections should only occur at the 1/4 mile mark.
It is apparent that this plan cannot comply with traffic regulations and should be built somewhere else, where it can comply. A residential neighborhood, as called for in the master plan, would not run into these traffic problems and create an unbearable traffic mess.
4. Nothing of Substance Has Changed
Developers propose to reduce the size of their big box stores and reorient them to face 159th street. This must not obscure the fact that they are still proposing a massive retail complex with PRB-3 zoning (the most intense commercial zoning allowed in Johnson County).:
- They still propose 8 additional buildings with the corner "bank" building increasing from 6,500 feet to 10,000 feet. [Neighbors note that this is in direct contradiction to what they were told at the neighborhood presentation, where Epps specifically stated one of the retail stores would be eliminated to allow for the residential.]
- They are still requesting a conditional use permit in order to build taller buildings than the required maximum height limit of 30 feet in Johnson County regulations. The developers refuse to discuss height issues--and still contend that the big box stores could easily exceed 44 feet in height. All of the 8 additional buildings would also exceed 30 foot height requirements.
- In addition, the orientation of stores towards 159th street breaks all regulations required in nearby Overland Park (the Wal-Mart had originally wanted to face 159th street but was finally required to face Metcalf). Overland Park, joint planning partners with Johnson County, has repeatedly said that 159th street is NOT a commercial corridor. A drive down 159th all the way east to the Missouri State line and all the way west to Olathe--will show that there is NO commercial property along 159th street.
5. The 1.6 Acre Detention Pond and Wetlands Area Will Be a West Nile Virus Threat
The developers are still proposing to place the 1.6 acre stormwater detention basin and .24 acre wetland area directly behind Blue Valley Riding Neighborhood. Fears of this becoming an ideal mosquito breeding area, ready to transmit the West Nile Virus or St. Louis Encephalitis are very real: An August 16, 2002 article by Washington Post writer David Cho examined recent research into these very detention ponds/basins. (Cleaner Water vs. West Nile Risk, Retention Ponds Filter Toxins, Harbor Mosquitoes Near Homes, Washington Post, August 16, 2002 Page B01)
Mr. Cho states that research shows we are inadvertently creating disease problems:
"Stormwater basins, which drain over days, create an ideal habitat for mosquitoes, encouraging the spread of diseases such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis."
A three-year study showed that even basins that were designed to drain and dry in 48 hours harbored mosquitoes. (At least the little pond, presently on the property, had fish to catch and eat mosquitoes.)
A detention basin so near the backyard properties also poses as an "attractive nuisance" to the safety of many children that live nearby. Sediments from such ponds are known to accumulate various toxic "heavy metals" washing down from parking lots and roads.
6. Traffic Congestion Will Be Unbearable & Dangerous to 6 Public Schools Along 159th
The plan still includes a massive parking lot for 1,180 cars and will generate 11,170 vehicle trips a day: This is 11 times the amount of traffic as compared to only 970 vehicle trips a day if the master plan were followed with single-family homes at 3 units per acre.
In addition, there are 6 major public schools within 1 1/2 mile of this corner--all along 159th street: Our previous figures have shown attendance to be 4,060 students. However, enrollment has gone up this Fall and we are researching new figures. The two high schools share sport facilities--and inexperienced teenage drivers are constantly driving back and forth between the two schools.
The main area hub for LaidLaw Transit (school bus company) is just a few miles south at 194th/ Metcalf.
Together this bus traffic, school traffic, and proposed commercial retail traffic with semi-trailer delivery trucks included, will create a dangerous mix. We are very concerned--as this entire area is a heavy residential area--with continuing growth of single family homes at nearby Nall and 159th. More commercial traffic should NOT be allowed to add to this mix. We are examining actual traffic counts and safety data and will present our findings soon.
A signalized intersection on 159th street will violate CARNP standards and will trap neighborhoods that use nearby Lamar and Riggs. We will never be able to leave our subdivisions! TranSystems (the traffic engineers for the developers) say not to worry--a westbound queue on 159th street would back up for only 300 to 350 feet. We say we know the present traffic and it can easily back up beyond this distance. A signal for a main entrance along 159th is a BAD idea.
Our Proposal: Let's Really Talk and Not Just For Show
On August 17 developer representatives Jack Epps and Andy Schlagel met with neighborhood representatives and talked AT us, not WITH us about this plan.
We all got the impression that this meeting was just for show--so developers could report back to Annabeth Surbaugh, Susie Wolf, and other commissioners concerned about this project, that they had indeed discussed this plan with the neighborhoods.
Our attorney, Charles Benjamin, reviewed the sketch and concepts presented along with neighborhood comments. He submitted these to the developers and County Commissioners. See the attached response.
We are ready and willing to meet with the developers of Blue Valley Plaza and discuss reasonable development that accommodates the Master Plan. But so far, the developers refuse to budge from their idea that the corner must have heavy intense commercial. Even with a newly revised plan, we believe the analysis by the Johnson County Planning department and the Oxford Township Zoning Board will continue to show that this present plan is ill-conceived and violates all 8 Golden Criteria as it did before.
It is important to realize that according to law, developers are only granted rights allowed by law--they knew full well when they purchased this property that the Master Plan called for residential and the public is under no obligation to accommodate their development plans.
We believe that the master plan should be followed--as Johnson County and Overland Park spent a considerable amount of time and input to make this determination. They knew three corners would be commercial and they master planned this corner as transition residential to balance this commercial area. The developers say this corner has to be commercial--we plan to provide our research that shows numerous corners in Johnson County have successfully developed into the same pattern.
Most notable: 119th/Nall One corner is a beautiful 2-story townhome complex while the three remaining corners are Sprint headquarters, Menorah Hospital, and Town Center Shopping complex.
We are hopeful that a development plan for transition residential can be drawn up for this corner that follows the master plan.