By Kevin Collison
A proposal to build nine townhomes on long-vacant property at 29th and Belleview was delayed Tuesday by the City Plan Commission over a procedural glitch and complaints by some neighbors about communication issues.
Remez Partnership wants to build six, two-bedroom and three, three-bedroom townhomes on a half-acre lot in the Westside neighborhood of greater downtown. The 29 Belle project, is expected to sell townhomes for $239,000- to $249,000, according to the developer.
In order to move forward however, the developer needs to have the site in the Westside neighborhood of greater downtown declared blighted to qualify for potential tax incentives, and have it rezoned to allow medium-density housing.
The property is on a slope and wooded site, and it’s believed foundations of homes demolished there in the 1920s were filled with debris and then buried. The area also either lacks sidewalks and curbs, or the existing infrastructure is badly deteriorated.
The blight designation and rezoning is supported by city planners, but the proposal has encountered opposition from some neighbors. The project is supported by the Hispanic Economic Development Corp.
About a half-dozen people testified at the City Plan Commission meeting, most of them opponents, including Richard Hernandez, president of the Westside Neighborhood Association.
Rafael Cervantes lives at 2908 Belleview across from the development site.
“This project doesn’t fit this neighborhood and it doesn’t make sense for this neighborhood,” he said.
Others said the developer failed to properly publicize its community meetings regarding the project. They added they believed the blight conditions were the result of the developer not taking care of the property it purchased five years ago.
Bob Mayer, one of the development partners, said three community meetings had been held since the beginning of the year using neighborhood notification information provided by the city.
“We did what attempts we could to reach out,” Mayer said. “I’m not sure what else we could do other than satisfy them and not do the project.”
In response to suggestions, the development has morphed from the original plan for the townhomes to be rentals to owner-occupied, shifted the buildings to allow more off-street parking and added ground-floor “mother-in-law” suites to some units.
The change from being a rental project to for-sale however, is why the city planning staff said the project needed to have its site plan modified to account for that platting change.
That technicality plus concerns by some Plan Commissioners about the communication complaints, prompted them to vote to delay consideration until next month.
Most commissioners however, indicated support for the townhome development plan.
“I agree townhomes are a good level of density for that neighborhood,” said Commissioner Ashley Sadowski, “and $250,000 or less for a new townhome is great.
“There’s a lot of things to like about this and I empathize with the developer’s changes, but it seems the communication fell apart.”
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