A small house on an oversized lot sits in contrast to two townhomes being built on a small lot at 91st and McGee. Photo by Kathy Feist

Infill becomes topic of concern at meeting

“Developers are building houses right now 8 feet apart and towering over other houses,”

By Kathy Feist

Some of the crowd that attended the Center Planning and Development Council meeting on May 3 at the Trailside Center in south Kansas City may have left with a sense of relief. City Planner Najma Mohammad brushed away fears that the city’s newly proposed residential development ordinance would attract a slew of oversized and out-of-character homes built on small lots in their neighborhoods. 

“The goal is to make the houses on either side [of the street] fit in with the homes in the neighborhood,” she assured.

Mohammad is talking about a proposed amendment to the city’s Chapter 88 Lot and Building Standards for Residences. The amendment (88-110-06) introduces a new standard called “infill development.” Infill development allows for a property owner to subdivide a lot into multiple lots for the sake of building more homes.  By specifying building standards, the amendment seeks to create uniformity within a neighborhood. Newly built homes would need to conform with the height, placement, setbacks and floor size of surrounding homes. The current ordinance does not address neighborhood conformity. 

“Developers are building houses right now 8 feet apart and towering over other houses,” she said. “And they can do that right now. What we’re saying is that they should not be able to do that if they are trying to fit the character of the neighborhood.” 

One of the purposes of the new amendment is to create space for new housing at a time when housing is in short supply, at local as well as national levels.  

While some south Kansas Citians in the audience expressed concerns regarding neighborhood input, the new amendments show no change in the review process from the previous ordinance. The City Planning Director must review all types of minor subdivisions from as little as one new lot to as many as 20. When developers do not comply with the requirements for subdividing, the process must then go to the City Plan Commission, where a public hearing is necessitated.

Nevertheless, Carole Winterowd, President of the Center Planning and Development Council, which notifies south KC neighborhoods of new development in their area,  stands firm to give neighbors a say.

“We need to keep the voice of the neighbors in the process from the early meeting with the developer and throughout the entire process,” Winterowd wrote in a letter addressed to the City Plan Commission as well as Mayor Quinton Lucas. “We are the taxpayers and citizens who will be living next to the potential projects. Without neighborhood input you will miss out on a very important part of the approval process.”

“We do not support an ordinance which does not include the voice of the public after they may have attended multiple public meetings and written letters which helped to form an opinion in support of or opposition to a particular infill project.”

A City Plan Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 17 will give the public an opportunity to express their concerns. For more information on the meeting and the ordinances, search online for Chapter 88 Kansas City Code Amendments. 

 

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