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Proposal For St. Francis School Site Heads To Kansas City Council

Neighbors and parishioners continued to do verbal battle with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph as a Kansas City Council committee revisited the proposal to replace  the former St. Francis School with student apartments.

On Wednesday, the committee tossed the matter to the full City Council.

A guarantee of 55 more parking spaces for the St. Francis Xavier Church didn't appease opposition to the proposed 235-bedroom residential building. Neighborhood groups and church members have battled successive versions of the proposal for three years. 

At the second council committee hearing Wednesday, opponents criticized the plan's environmental effects, lack of green space, the density of the development given the site size and raised concerns that the new building would be controlled by a developer, not by the diocese. 

Some opponents also said they would prefer a more service-oriented use for the property — to serve the poor or the elderly in the ares. Others questioned whether a facility with rents up to $1,000 a month could be successful as student housing.

Representatives of the diocese said it would cost millions of dollars  to rehab the former school building, and the Catholic-themed housing would be a self-supporting alternative. 

They also tried to reassure the opponents that marketing studies had indicated that the facility could be successful and that services to students were a valid part of the mission of the church and a part for which there was a unique opportunity in the University of Missouri-Kansas City-Rockhurst University neighborhood.

The committee advanced the plan on a 4-1 vote, but several members, including Melba Curls, said it didn't necessarily mean the proposal has their vote.

“I would like to send it to the council, and we can discuss it there.  To me there is more than just one piece, which is the parking.  Tome there are more pieces to it,” Curls said.

Colleague Scott Taylor agreed that in view of the conflict, consideration by the full council was appropriate. 

Committee member John Sharp voted against any action until an effective compromise had been achieved with neighborhood groups. 

Both Sharp and 4th District Councilwoman Jan Marcason, who is not a member of the committee, expressed deep concern about the conflict with neighborhood groups.  They contrasted the ongoing strife to the dispute over a plan to build a Whole Foods complex a few blocks away.  Compromise was successful in that disagreement, they said.  Both said they would not vote for a project strongly opposed by so many groups in the neighborhood.

The matter is scheduled to go before the full council on July 23. 

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