By Kathy Feist
On Tuesday night, at a special meeting of the Grandview Board of Alderman, an ordinance approving a controversial low-income senior housing development—known as Libertad—did not pass its second reading, and third vote. The vote was 3 in favor and 2 against. An ordinance approval requires at least four votes to pass. The vote was expected to pass with a 3-3 tie and the mayor casting the deciding vote. However, Alderman Joe Runions was absent from the meeting, thereby preventing a tie-breaking vote. Mayor Leonard Jones tried to move the meeting to August 23, when all alderman could be present, but that motion did not pass.
The Aug. 16th special meeting came on the heels of a regularly scheduled Alderman work session that began at 7 p.m that evening. The meeting was held via Zoom only, due to rising Covid cases among city commissioners. No public commentary was allowed.
The low-income project has received a lot of pushback from residents surrounding the property at 12529 Lemon Tree Lane.
On Oct. 12, 2021, Grandview’s Board of Aldermen voted 4-2 to defeat the initial Libertad ordinance after citizens gathered around City Hall armed with hundreds of signatures opposing the development.
Residents voiced concerns over density, parking, and the possibility of an increase in homeless individuals and drug-related crime in their neighborhood.
The 62-unit development proposed by the Springfield-based Vecino Group was originally conceived as a 46-unit structure with a preference for seniors and 16 units set aside for families and individuals with children at risk of homelessness.
In June, the Vecino Group presented updated plans that addressed some community concerns. These changes included:
- All units will be restricted to tenants age 55 and over
- 125th Terrace, which travels through a 55+ single-family housing development Jordan’s Keep Villas, will no longer be a secondary access road for Libertad residents. Instead, the street will be restricted to emergency vehicles only.
- To address congested parking and traffic along Lemon Tree Lane, additional land will be purchased to create a new road leading to 127th Street.
- A new fence will be installed along a portion of the development.
- A new storm shelter will be incorporated into the project.
- Security will be augmented with additional cameras in and outside the building, enhanced lightning, and secured access points.
Despite the proposed changes, the ordinance again failed on the first reading at the June 27 Board of Alderman meeting. With a 3-2 vote, Alderman Dan Hartman abstained, preventing its passage.
It was later determined by the city attorney that Hartman’s reason for abstaining—friendship with the property owners—was legally not acceptable, leading to Tuesday’s second reading and eventual passage.
The property owners of the proposed development are Tony and Kiisha Siebert of TK Senior Properties LLC.
The Siebert family is well known in Grandview and the Kansas City metro area for founding Kenny’s Tile and Flooring in Grandview in 1954, with brothers Tony and Travis Siebert as co-owners of the company. Kenny’s Tiles and TK Senior Properties are both located at 3303 Main St.
In addition to owning the three-acre property at 12529 Lemon Tree Lane, Tony and wife Kiisha own Jordan’s Keep Villas that border its north end. In 2007, the couple developed Jordan’s Keep to include 37 single family homes for those aged 55 and older. The couple now own 25 of the homes, which they now lease to tenants.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, the Telegraph made some door-to-door visits with residents at Jordan’s Keep Villas. Of the 18 who answered the door, most still opposed the project despite the recent changes.
One homeowner and one tenant were pleased with the changes. Four tenants who rented from the Sieberts were uncommitted.The remainder, 12, were adamantly opposed. Many leasing tenants expressed fear of retribution after learning the Sieberts drastically raised the rent on the most vocal tenant, forcing him and his wife to move.
While many understood the Siebert’s push to sell their property, few could understand why the City of Grandview has been so persistent in its reintroduction. There is no long-term economic advantage, as Grandview currently consists of over 50 percent rental properties, making it less desirable to commercial developers, according to City Alderman and former state legislator Joe Runions.
When presented with the question why the mayor and city administrators are pushing Libertad’s approval, Grandview city spokesperson Valarie Poindexter offered a simple explanation: “In Grandview, we care about all of our citizens.”