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Apartment Complex On Kansas City's Westside Stymied At Public Hearing

Developers and neighborhood opponents continue to negotiate on a planned apartment complex at 17th and Madison.
Rendering courtesy of EPC Real Estate

Neighborhood opponents of a proposed apartment development in Kansas City's Westside outnumbered its supporters 3 to 1 at a second Kansas City Council committee hearing on the project Wednesday.

The development would replace a warehouse at 17th and Madison.

A second public hearing was prompted by the number of objections to the committee's original decision to approve the zoning and design at an earlier hearing with a delayed start. Many neighbors said they had to leave that meeting because it was so late; before the matter of the apartment project came up.

There were numerous objections, including that the development would change the character of the historic neighborhood and that the introduction of additional upscale residential property would result in higher property taxes, forcing some lower income residents out of their homes. 

Though requested incentives for the developers were not yet up for a vote, some neighbors objected to the idea of tax breaks for a luxury apartment development in a mixed-income neighborhood environment.

Some complained that too few long-term residents had input in discussions with developers.

The comments of John Fierro, CEO of the nearby Mattie Rhodes Center, summed up opponents sentiments.

“I embrace the economic revitalization that is occurring on the West Side, but not at the expense of individuals that have lived in this neighborhood for 30, 40, 50 years,” he said.

Fierro's comments were met by applause and cheers as were the remarks of many of the opponents.

Developer John Coon offered a point-by-point rebuttal to all objections. He also noted that the plan had already been downsized to make it more compatible with neighborhood wishes.

He denied that the project could continue without the tax incentives, which, he said, are necessary in order to keep from creating parking availability problems in the area.

Coon said the developers do have the option of further downsizing the project from its current 48 apartments to 30 and eliminating plans for the underground parking garage.  But, he said, that plan is less than desirable because it would create parking problems in the neighborhood.

Several committee members, particularly Katheryn Shields, expressed unwillingness to proceed with so much neighborhood opposition.

Finally, a plan emerged to have some committee members meet with developers and neighborhood groups to attempt to reach a compromise.

The committee members hoped to hold those negotiations prior to the next meeting of the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, which is scheduled for July 21.

Steve Bell is afternoon newscaster and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or at steveb@kcur.org

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