By Jill Draper
Kansas City planners have spent several years working on a new long-range plan, and in the next two weeks they’ll begin asking the public to comment on 21 detailed objectives and recommended actions before wrapping up the document and presenting it to the City Council, probably in February.
Morgan Pemberton, a planner with the Planning and Development Department, outlined the final steps scheduled for the KC Spirit Playbook–the name of the comprehensive plan that will set priorities and guide development in areas like transportation, housing and livability.
Speaking at the Oct. 10 meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance, Pemberton said the 21 objectives would be released in batches of three between now and the end of the year.
“It’s our job to take all of that feedback from the public and find the best path forward for the next 20 years,” she said. The last comprehensive plan focused on revitalizing downtown, she noted, and some of that energy now will be refocused on other parts of the city “that historically haven’t seen as much investment.”
The new plan will include a timeline and will address communication, accountability and ways to measure progress. Find out more at playbook.kcmo.gov.
The SKCA meeting featured two additional planning issues—a recently approved ordinance that allows accessory dwelling units (granny flats) and a proposed ordinance that would change the minor subdivision review process and infill development.
Joe Rexwinkle, manager of the Planning Department’s Development Management Division, answered questions about accessory dwelling units, which used to be common before 1950 until zoning policy banned most of them. The City Council voted in September to change that policy. These units now can be attached to an existing home or built in a back yard with various height and setback restrictions.
Rexwinkle said such dwellings must be at least five feet from the property line and a homeowner must live within either the accessory or main unit. An accessory unit cannot be used for short-term rentals.
More questions surfaced about another ordinance still under consideration to require that new houses built among existing neighborhoods (infill development) be similar in terms of height and size to those nearby. In return, said Rexwinkle, the city wants to make it easier to adjust property lines and create minor subdivisions of up to 20 lots. One way it would be easier is to review these smaller subdivisions as an administrative procedure and drop the requirement for public input.
Follow-up speakers from the KC Neighborhood Advisory Council suggested instead that the proposed changes be made into two ordinances. They protested giving up the opportunity for public input, claiming the new language would be a significant change in how development is handled. They also pointed out the changes requiring infill development be similar to existing structures would not allow additional types of housing like duplexes, which are desirable in older neighborhoods such as the Westside and Pendleton Heights.
Members of the audience wondered about homes built in neighborhoods as infill or to replace tear-downs that don’t comply with the existing architectural style, but were told the city doesn’t usually address style.
The Neighborhood Advisory Council has been meeting with the planning staff, and Rexwinkle said they would continue to refine the language of the ordinance.