Comp Plan, resident complaints defeat project; PUD denied
Applicant Cedar Ridge Investments (David Tomlinson) and Landes Engineering recently requested a rezone of a 13.34-acre property just east of Harrison Ave. on East 39th Street on the north side of the road, but their PUD (Planning Unit Development) was denied.
The area in question, according to the city's Comp Plan, is designated for high-density residential development.
The proposed PUD of single-family dwellings did not align with the Comp Plan so the application was met with a firm disapproval by city staff.
City Planner Rebecca Blaine said during predevelopment owner/developers were very interested in doing a single-family development.
“We do want to be encouraging of adding rooftops to our community,” she said. “We have a lot of companies that are looking at our community right now.”
The city's hope and goal is that those companies would choose Shawnee to live in, not just work in, she said.
“Our Comprehensive Plan that we just adopted last October talks about housing quite often,” she said.
In the Comp Plan there is a Shawnee land-use composition — a map of designations the city envisions each area developing into in the future.
There is 20 percent of land allocated for residential for future use over the next 20 years, until 2040, she said.
“Of that 20 percent, we have 106 acres reserved for multi-family, so that's considered high-density, which is 12-plus dwelling units per acre,” she said, “which is hard to accomplish without going vertical, so that would be kind of the highest density category we have.”
The future use map does designate the 13.37-acre property in question as high-density residential, she said.
Blaine said the reason that particular property is categorized that way is because it is in great proximity to one of the main north-south arterials in town.
Also, with current discussions about public transportation and establishing a fixed-stop system, the property would be close to that, she said.
“We have an over-majority of single-family dwellings in Shawnee and we are at a deficit for a diversity of different housing actions,” she said. “That could include condos, town homes, apartments, mixed-use development — where you have retail on bottom and housing on top; all of these things are in need.”
She said anther issue is that east 39th Street is not up to city standard.
“It's an asphalt road without curb and gutter,” she said. “Businesses that front North Harrison have complained about stormwater and drainage issues from that road and development.”
Infrastructure improvement should be the responsibility of the developer, she said.
“This PUD has 62 proposed lots,” she said. “If each household has two vehicles, that's 124 vehicles that are being dumped onto East 39th Street; it's the only point of ingress/egress for this development.”
The road is not adequate to handle the increased demand that would be anticipated from that development, she said.
“That should not be a city responsibility,” Blaine said. “The city responsibility would be to accept a road that has been constructed to our standards and then take over maintenance. It should not be our responsibility to construct.”
Blaine explained that best planning practices would advise against a PUD being used as the norm versus the exception.
“A PUD should only be used when it's such a unique development that is cannot fit into one of our current zoning districts,” she said. “I believe the goal of the developer in the firm that crafted this PUD was that they thought they would get an increased density if they did a PUD for single-family homes versus straight R-1 zoning.”
Straight R-1 zoning requires the minimum of a 6,000 square-foot lot; these lots have been broken down to an average of 5,500 square feet, Blaine explained.
“And they are getting just over seven dwelling units per acre in this PUD form,” she said.
The issues that staff have with PUDS, she said, are there are items and zoning code and sub-regs that end up being left out of the PUD or the language is very vague, and is left to interpretation between staff, the developer, and maybe if the developer sells that off and it's a new developer.
“Usually our city attorney gets involved to help us interpret that language,” she said. “I would strongly discourage us ever approving a PUD unless it was such a unique type development that it would not fit within our standard code.”
Blaine said the city got some feedback from the area about the proposal.
In a letter from Vision Bank, support was offered for the PUD.
There also were two petitions — with nearly 80 names signed to them — that opposed the PUD.
“They talked about zoning designation and they would only be supportive of a change to R-1,” she said. “No. 2 (concern) is drainage.”
Anytime there is development is it a requirement at the engineering department that drainage and detention plans and calculations be submitted, reviewed and approved as part of that project, she explained.
“What that does is ensures that storm water is not going to run off your property faster than it was predevelopment,” she said. “It protects your neighbors from flooding.”
So that concern, Blaine said, is a non-issue in this case.
Another issue is traffic.
“East 39th Street simply is not made to hold any additional traffic at this time,” she said.
Population density was also listed as a concern in the petition.
“An R-1 designation would be populated with home owners,” she read from the petition. “Any other designation would bring in non-home owners and increased density, leading to more domestic disturbances and crime, further reducing property values in our neighborhood.”
Blaine responded, saying that concern is a blanket statement and not factual.
Concerns from the other petition (about 40 signatures) involved storm water issues, safety concerns and increased traffic load, as well as the potential dangers of the OG&E transmission substation located west of the property.
While the substation could present a danger to children, Blaine said it is secured with a fence and is behind a gate and lock.
“It would take some real effort to get onto that property,” she said.
Reiterating her position on the item, Blaine said the Comp Plan was developed with about 30 members of the community and several open houses over a two-year period.
“I would hate, this early on, to see us vote for something deviates from our Comp Plan because I think that sets the wrong precedent,” she said. “And I think it's going to disable us to use that future use map for the decision-making in future applications.”
After hearing resident concerns and Blaine's staff report, the board voted unanimously to deny the PUD request.
Read more about the issue in a future edition of The Shawnee News-Star.