By Don Bradley
Go south on Holmes Road from 115th Street and you’ll pass a string of old houses boarded up to make way for new luxury townhomes.
Then you get to Pauline Dille’s place. No plywood for her. She’s 82, been there more than half a century, raised her kids in that house, likes the deer who pass nightly through her back yard and she says she’s staying no matter how much money they offer her.
“There’s no price tag on the rest of my life,” she said.
The fact that somewhere along the way somebody came into her house and stole her toilet paper just made her dig her heels in deeper. More on that later.
The developer for the project did not respond to phone calls or emails for this story. It was earlier reported that the company, SLCR LLC, had placed its plan to build 34 townhomes on hold while it sought the purchase of one more property.
A day last week in her living room, Dille said a company rep told her they had made a “very lucrative offer” on her house. She doesn’t disagree. She figured under normal conditions she could maybe get half what the company offered.
Peggy Calhoun, a neighbor and board member of Center Planning and Development Council, said Dille is determined to stay put, but it’s no surprise that someone came along with a development plan for the site along Holmes Road between 115th and 117th streets.
The neighborhood has seen a recent rejuvenation, especially at Red Bridge Shopping Center just to the north. The strip of old clashes with the newness.
Calhoun remembers the meeting at which the original developer pitched the townhome plan to the neighborhood, a step in getting city rezoning approval. Residents, however, objected to a lack of parking, green space and play areas for kids.
It was a smaller site then, much of it along 115th Street, so the company expanded the project, buying up more lots to the south, including the Waterford South senior living facility, before running into Pauline Dille. After she refused their offer, a company rep called Dille.
“He says, what about your children…don’t they have a say,” Dille said. “I told him I’d check the deed. ‘No, their names aren’t on it.’ ”
Cathy Krommenhoek, Dille’s daughter, fully supports her mom.
“That place has been her home all these years so of course she doesn’t want to leave,” Krommenhoek said from her home in Florida.
She said her mother didn’t get a lot of breaks in life, went through some rough times and probably views herself as an underdog.
“When somebody pushes, she’s going to come out fighting and that’s what’s going on here and I’m going to stand there with her,” Krommenhoek said.
Kansas City planning and zoning records show there is nothing new on SLCR’s rezoning application since 2022.
Meanwhile, neighbors say squatters made themselves at home in some of the boarded-up houses. One supposedly even had utilities turned on.
Dille said a man holed up in the duplex next to her came uninvited into her house while she and her little dog were watching the 10 o’clock news.
The dog started barking and Dille dialed 911 and yelled at the man as he ran out. Krommenhoek said her mother had to make a hospital visit after that.
Then, according to Dille, the same man snuck in again two days later while she mowed the yard.
“He turned on the TV, got the dog’s toy and went into the bathroom and took my toilet paper and left me two squares,” she said. “Why would somebody do that?”
Police know who the man is, she said. The development company has taken appropriate steps to better secure the properties.
Dille, who has no ill will toward the developer, said she could take the money and go live with Krommenhoek in Florida, a place she describes as “a fine place to visit.”
But she wants to stay home, where her children ran the yard, where she tends her gardens, digs in the dirt and watches deer pass through on their way to the golf course.
“I’ve seen old people have to leave their house,” she said. “They give up and die. That’s not going to happen to me.
“When God calls me, that’s when I’ll leave this place.”