OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Drivers near 133rd Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park will see yard signs with two different messages.
Blue signs say, “Save Deer Creek Golf.”
Red signs say, “Stop Deer Creek High-Density Apartments.”
EPC Real Estate and GreatLife KC are behind the blue signs. They say their proposed project to build a three-building apartment complex alongside the Deer Creek Golf Course is the only way to save the course before erosion along the banks of Tomahawk Creek and their expensive repairs force the course to close.
People living in the single-family homes east of the proposed project site in the Deer Creek neighborhood are behind the red signs. They say the new apartment complex will create traffic, noise, light pollution, alter the character of the neighborhood and set a precedent that developers anywhere in the city can bend the rules to get what they want.
Both sides will argue their case in front of the Overland Park Planning Commission in city hall at 4 p.m. Monday. The commission will send a recommendation to city council members about whether to rezone the land for apartments.
City staff currently recommends approving the project with several stipulations.
Ultimately, EPC Real Estate will ask the city for tax breaks on the apartments. It will use the money it saves through that deal to stabilize Tomahawk Creek. Those repairs would have to be complete before the apartments open.
Heavy rains send stormwater through the creek, causing erosion and damage along the course. Without a funding source to fix the expensive repairs, EPC Real Estate says it might have to close the course altogether.
“This is the solution to fix the creek and keep the golf course open and keep everyone’s homes on a golf course which is what they purchased,” explained executive vice president for EPC Real Estate and the lead on the project, Austin Bradley.
EPC plans to build three apartment buildings with a total of 224 units made up of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom dwellings.
Overland Park code limits multi-family buildings to 200 feet in length. EPC is asking for deviations to make the buildings 360, 500 and 260 feet long. One will be three stories, one will be four and one will be five stories high. The complex will have a lodge style and theme. EPC will tear down the existing golf clubhouse to make way for the apartments and build a new golf pro shop on the ground floor of one building.
The project would force EPC to make minor changes to two holes on the course, including shortening the first hole from a par 4 to a par 3.
People living in the single-family neighborhood alongside the golf course east of the proposed project site have rallied against the plan. Their list of reasons to oppose the project includes noise and light pollution.
Currently, the golf course closes at night, so there are no lights in the area and no one creating noise. With apartments on the site, people living there will generate both noise and light all hours of the day.
The developer has proposed adding more trees as a buffer, but residents point out that only really makes a difference during the spring and summer when leaves are on the trees.
Jill Schram said the apartments will change her family’s view, calling the 490-foot proposed building the “Great Wall of Deer Creek.”
City staff says the apartment could act as a buffer from busy Metcalf Avenue.
“It’s taller than any buildings that are in South Creek, which is an office complex,” Schram said. “It’s the opposite of a buffer. We would need a buffer between us and this as opposed to this providing a buffer.”
Schram and others wonder how the apartments will alter the character of their neighborhood.
“Deer Creek only has 226 homes,” Schram pointed out. “In essence, this is doubling the size of the neighborhood. I think it changes the character of it, it changes the nature of it.”
EPC says the nearby intersection of 135th Street and Metcalf Avenue is full of retail, restaurant, office and hotel, with very little single-family housing in the larger area.
Schram’s group wants to highlight how EPC is asking for deviations from city rules so people in other neighborhoods understand the city can grant that kind of change to developers anywhere.
“The system is somewhat rigged against you,” explained Michelle Reinig, who lives in the Deer Creek neighborhood. “It’s really frustrating. It’s a real David versus Goliath and the city, unfortunately, has a better relationship with Goliath than they do with David,” she said, referencing EPC as Goliath.
Neighbors like Reinig also have concerns about increased traffic in the area even though a traffic study predicts minimal impacts.
The Overland Park city council will have the final say on the project after the planning commission makes a recommendation.