A week from today — nearly three years after the Shawnee Mission School District superintendent first announced plans to close Mission Valley — the Prairie Village City Council will consider approval for the 350,000-plus square foot Mission Chateau senior living community proposal.
Just about every step that leading up to next Tuesday’s meeting has been controversial, so we thought it might be edifying to take a look back at some of the key moments that got us where we are today:
Then-Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Gene Johnson shocks a packed auditorium of district patrons when he announces his recommendation to close Mission Valley Middle School – which had received a $3 million library renovation just a few years earlier – as part of plans to consolidate district schools and cut costs.
Mission Valley area families organize and form the “Save Mission Valley” group, which begins lobbying aggressively against Johnson’s proposal.
Citing a need to conduct further study of facilities needs at district middle schools, Johnson at the last minute removes the proposal to close Mission Valley from the Board of Education’s agenda, preventing a vote. Communications unveiled by a Freedom of Information Act request later show that Johnson removed the item because he didn’t have the votes to close the school: “…it came to my attention on Monday morning that the votes were not there…I didn’t want negative votes at the meeting and that’s why I removed [the recommendation from the agenda].” An FOIA request also revealed that board chair Deb Zila had chastised her colleagues for not supporting Johnson.
After three months of debate, the Shawnee Mission School Board votes to close Mission Valley.
The Shawnee Mission Board of Education accepts an offer of $4.35 million for Mission Valley from a group led by Dan Lowe of RED Development. The offer was nearly $2 million higher than the $2.4 million bid by LANE4, the only other company to put in a formal offer.
RED abruptly backs out of an agreement with the city to hold a robust public-input process on potential uses for the Mission Valley site.
The Mission Valley Neighbors Association forms to counter any possible mixed-use development on the school site.
Facing considerable pressure from Mission Valley neighborhood residents, the Prairie Village City Council votes against a comprehensive planning process for the Mission Valley site that would have cost $80,000-$90,000, and instead simply affirmed support for uses of the site allowed under its current R-1a zoning. This sets the stage for limiting possible uses for the site to schools, churches or residential projects, including senior living communities.
The closure of Mission Valley and its sale to RED become a campaign issue in the Prairie Village City Council Elections, with eventual winners Ashley Weaver, Ted Odell and Brooke Morehead all weighing in. Morehead is particularly outspoken in committing to voters to keep the site a school: “A scenario where Mission Valley is allowed to become senior living and KC Christian moves to a larger facility in OP is a real possibility, given the current situation. PV and Ward 4 cannot afford to lose both schools!,” she wrote. “My commitment to Ward 4 residents is to work to ensure that the former Mission Valley School site remains a school and that KC Christian continues to grow in Prairie Village, attracting families and supporting property values.”
The Prairie Village Planning Commission voted to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan to indicate that R1-a uses under the zoning code were appropriate for the site, and the council follows suit.
Prairie Village city officials tell the City Council they have heard that the site’s owners have started planning a senior-living-only development for the site.
The neighbors organize for the ability to file protest petitions against special use permits for the site. The Prairie Village city council puts a moratorium on the filing of special use permits until they’ve had a chance to consider the protest petition ordinance.
After months of public input sessions and meetings with city officials, Tutera formally presents Mission Chateau plans to the Planning Commission. In response to concerns about the size of the project, Tutera comes back a month later with plans showing a 9 percent reduction in square footage. Then, after three months of proceedings, the Planning Commission recommends approval of Mission Chateau in August, setting up a September vote at the City Council, and opening the window for area homeowners to file a protest petition against the plans.
The neighbors file a successful protest petition against the project, upping the requirement for passage at the City Council level to a supermajority of 10 of 13 possible votes.
Which just about brings us up to present…