An overflow crowd of Mission Valley-area homeowners voiced strong objections Tuesday to the idea that the site of the vacant school could be redeveloped for commercial use — a wave of input that compelled the council to recommend moving forward with an extensive public planning process for the site.
The comprehensive planning process would give the give the city some legal footing to approve or reject a re-zoning application for the site if Mission Valley’s owner, MVS LLC, which is represented by RED Brokerage, were to file one. A memo prepared for the city council last week suggested RED is considering a mixed-use development for the property that would include a specialty grocery store, retail space, office space and senior housing. Such a development would require the city to approve a change to the the site’s current residential zoning.
In extensive public comments, neighborhood residents expressed deep concerns about what razing the school building would do to the fabric of the community.
“We all made a decision to live here because of public schools,” said Whitney Kerr, whose house backs up to the Mission Valley athletic fields. “If we continue to dismantle infrastructure of this community, young families that would possibly move here are going to bypass us and move south and move into Shawnee.”
A number of speakers expressed discontent with word that discussions between RED and Kansas CIty Christian had not resulted in the sale of the building to the school. Michael Lubbers, a Kansas City Christian parent, told the council that KCC is outgrowing its space near 79th Street and Roe Avenue, and will eventually need to move. Securing the Mission Valley building, he said, would keep the KCC community tied to the Prairie Village area.
“If we lose Kansas City Christian, families will move out of the area, and a whole lot of others won’t look at moving in,” he said. “With the Mission Valley building, KCC enrollment could go up to 750. That’s a huge community that could live and shop here.”
Many members of the public initially voiced objection to the idea of moving forward with the planning process, saying they felt it would be a formality that led to a commercial redevelopment. But members of the City Council, including Charles Clark, countered that, on the contrary, the comprehensive planning process would provide a channel for community members to formally voice their opinions.
“I worry that by opposing the planning process, you might be acting against your own interests,” Clark said.
Diana Ewy Sharp told the crowd their vocal objections to the idea of tearing the school down had convinced her that the comprehensive planning process — which will cost the city at least $30,000 more than had been initially projected — would be worth the time and funds.
“Coming in here today, I thought I would object to the idea of spending money on the planning process,” she said. “You all have changed my mind. I can tell that you all will be very, very vocal. You all will need to be heavily engaged, and to be adamant that it be residential and not be commercial.”
City staff will prepare contracts for the consulting services to conduct the planning processes prior to the next City Council meeting, and the Council is likely to vote on moving forward with the process during its next meeting, Feb. 6.