Prairie Village will explore zoning changes in commercial areas next year

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Prairie Village plans to take a deeper dive into exploring potential zoning changes early next year in areas outside single-family residential neighborhoods.

After seeing drafted options presented by city staff, the planning commission on Tuesday agreed to a more detailed discussion in January on potential changes to the current zoning code for multifamily, mixed-use and commercial districts, which make up roughly 15% of zoned land in Prairie Village.

These drafted changes are part of the planning commission’s work on the controversial housing recommendations, which have been scaled back since first being advanced in June 2022.

Debate over the recommendations and their potential impact on single-family neighborhoods factored heavily into November’s city council elections, in which four candidates who opposed the recommendations won seats.

But single-family neighborhoods as they pertain to the housing recommendations have been formally taken off the planning commission’s plate and will not be part of discussions about potential zoning changes in mixed-use and commercial districts.

City staff on Tuesday presented changes to districts other than single-family — which account for at least 85% of the city.

Staff used five strategies to guide drafted changes

City staff used five strategies and developed approaches for each strategy — all of which were created based off previous planning commission discussions — to guide the zoning code changes presented on Tuesday:

  • Strategy: Maintain status quo in multifamily districts (R-3 and R-4). One approach: With infill construction, follow the scale or pattern of redevelopment of existing buildings.
  • Strategy: Allow residential uses in commercial districts. One approach: Limit residential uses in commercial districts to mixed-use buildings, such as allowing apartments above lower-level retail spaces.
  • Strategy: Create specific mixed-use district standards. One approach: Improve criteria and develop more specific policy goals as well as community benefit targets (such as design of streetscapes and civic spaces).
  • Strategy: Revise the planned development standards and process. One approach: Define specific elements of a development plan needed to “support flexibility,” in order for developers to be creative while staying within parameters the city outlines.
  • Strategy: Consider mixed-use standards for various possibilities. One approach: Explore rezoning certain multifamily or commercial districts in order to consider mixed-used standards for various possibilities.

See specific zoning code changes in city documents below, starting on page 83.

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Planning commissioners weighs in

Commissioner Jeffrey Valentino said he liked that city staff largely left multifamily districts alone, aside from cleaning up language that conflicts with existing multifamily structures.

Valentino said he prefers to focus on what can happen in commercial districts, and he thinks what city staff presented on Dec. 5 is on the right track.

Commissioner Patrick Lenahan suggested capping apartment building heights to four stories in mixed-use districts.

This is consistent with the suggested height for an “apartment-medium” standard under mixed-use building types currently. Lenahan said he thinks it would be best to let the number of units be the difference between a large apartment project from a medium apartment project.

Commissioner Nancy Wallerstein said she is also concerned about height, as well as density, amenities and infrastructure overall. Wallerstein said infrastructure in particular needs to be a top consideration when discussing zoning code changes.

“I think that we need to be cognizant that we are a 75-year-old community now, and we’ve got infrastructure that is 75 years old and was never meant to handle dishwashers and all the things that we have now — garbage disposals, etc,” Wallerstein said.

Watch the entire planning commission discussion on the city’s website here, starting at 1:16:05.

Apartments in Prairie Village. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

Next steps:

  • The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. on Jan. 9 and is expected to discuss city staff’s drafted changes to the zoning ordinance in more detail.
  • Chris Brewster, city planner, also said the plan for public input will be left to city administration.

Go deeper: Prairie Village’s housing recommendations have split the city — How did we get here?

About the author

Juliana Garcia
Juliana Garcia

👋 Hi! I’m Juliana Garcia, and I cover Prairie Village and northeast Johnson County for the Johnson County Post.

I grew up in Roeland Park and graduated from Shawnee Mission North before going on to the University of Kansas, where I wrote for the University Daily Kansan and earned my bachelor’s degree in  journalism. Prior to joining the Post in 2019, I worked as an intern at the Kansas City Business Journal.