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Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013

Redesigned apartment plan wins OK from Olathe Council

Special to The Star

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After months of rejection, the Olathe City Council this week gave the OK to a proposed apartment complex after its developer redesigned the project to address neighbors’ concerns.

The 510-unit Olathe Commons development on 119th Street and Alcan Street will include a cabana, volleyball court, pool and clubhouse, said developer Kelly Mulder of Maecommon LLC. Three three-story buildings will rise near the clubhouse and along 119th Street.

Near the outside of the development will stand 16 two-story buildings with more of a residential design. They will feature attached garages, chimneys and balconies.

Several council members said Tuesday evening they liked the new layout.

The road towards acceptance of the project has been tumultuous for both the developer and the council.

In 2006, the council approved a different project by the same name for the area. It was supposed to have 150 townhomes and duplex-style units, along with roughly 70,000 square feet of restaurants and retail space. It was stalled by the recession.

In the past several months, however, the design has gone through different incarnations.

Because of height and density concerns, it moved between the Planning Commission and City Council three times since March.

People who live nearby said over the past several months that the project did not fit in with their adjacent neighborhood.

A proposed design of Olathe Commons submitted in July had massive buildings sprawled all over the property, which the governing body did not like.

Before sending the project back to the Planning Commission, Mayor Mike Copeland warned the developer it was three strikes and then out.

His words made an impression.

“For 11 months, we tried to address concerns regarding setback and height, but after you said this was the last time, it resonated and we realized we needed to scrap it and start over,” said John Petersen, Maecommon’s legal representative. “This is an almost total redesign.”

The effort paid off.

Dave Clements, the city’s planning manager, said he believes the current design properly addresses residents’ concerns, especially since the attached garages reduce the amount of outdoor parking, thus creating more green space and more areas for storm water run off.

But while many of the residents living near the property say some of the changes are improvements, they’re still unhappy about the density.

“This is a partial victory for us because we still think 510 units is too much for that area,” said resident Tom Kearney. “But when all is said and done, at least we were listened to every step of the way. It’s much better than the block of buildings they were going to put up.”

Many council members held the same sentiments.

“It takes a lot of time and money and effort to redesign something, and at the end of the day, I think we have a product that is the best we can do,” said Councilman Jim Randall.

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