By Kathy Feist
Like many politicians, Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn is a people person.
“I enjoy working with people,” she says. “I enjoy solving problems and finding resolutions for different issues.”
Dunn, a petite woman with a broad smile and affable demeanor, has been finding resolutions for the city of Leawood for the past 28 years, first as councilwoman representing the Third Ward in 1993-96 and then as elected mayor since 1997.
Clearly she’s doing something right.
Leawood’s population has almost doubled since she started her political career, growing from 19,000 to 35,000 residents. Leawood is expected to max out at 45,000.
“At one point it was the fastest growing city in the state,” she says. It has lost that honor, but, at 35,000 residents, it is only 75 percent built out, according to Dunn.
“The main portion that has yet to be completed is the 135th Street Corridor,” says Dunn. The portion runs from State Line Rd to Nall, of which only 20 percent is developed. While the western end– near Nall and Mission–has retail and residents, the remainder, primarily from Pawnee to State Line, remains undeveloped or farmland.
“Some major projects have come forward recently,” says Dunn. “[Regents Park] on the south side was approved but has recently had some modifications. And then Cameron’s Court from State Line to Pawnee, is going through the process now.”
Regents Park, a high-end, multi-use development on the southeast corner near Kenneth and 135th St., was recently approved after two years of negotiating with the city. The village style community will include 60 townhomes, 81 maintenance provided villas, and 193 luxury apartments built above a retail and office space.
Cameron’s Court, on the north side of 135th St., initially sparked outrage from surrounding neighbors for its high density population and lack of compliance with the 135th Street Community Plan.
Some complain that the Community Plan, compiled in 2013, is already out of date, particularly in a post pandemic world where the need for retail and office space–and therefore parking–has diminished. During one Planning Committee meeting, committee members agreed that the Community Plan needed to be revisited.
“But we don’t want to redo the 135th Street Community plan in the middle of developments,” says Dunn. “We are open to revisiting the 135 Street Community plan, but once these planning items are through.”
In the meantime, she points out the solution: modifications. “Certainly if you followed Regents Park you know there were lots of modifications from the plan,” she says. “The twin villas that we approved were not part of the 135th Street Community Plan.”
Dunn, who is married to Terry Dunn, president and CEO of Dunn Construction Group, is excited about mixed-use developments, a popular trend throughout the country.
“Everything new you see these days, anything that is a big development, is mixed-use now,” she says. “It’s because of the synergy you have when you have a residential, retail and office combined. You have 24/7 activity. If it’s all office, it goes dark, especially in the winter.”
But while many of the mixed-use offerings in Leawood are focused on high-end, luxury living, Dunn says she would like to see more housing that concerns Leawood residents who don’t have a large income.
“I think we would love to see the ability for there to be different price points for folks so that we can have a more diverse populous,” she says. “People outgrowing their homes are not able to find anything economically if they want to stay in Leawood.”
(This article appeared in the October 27 issue of The Telegraph in a series of interviews called “Mayors Speak.”)