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Proposed development will be right next to OP elementary, raising safety concerns with parents

Posted: 6:46 PM, Sep 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-18 21:44:20Z

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Parents are raising concerns with a newly proposed development right next to Morse Elementary at 151st St and Quivira. 

Several members of Overland Park’s planning commission said this plan is not ideal or the best option, but pushed the topic to the full commission. 

“I think I will have to vote in favor of it, but I’m not all that excited about it, frankly,” said commissioner Rob Krewson. 

Grata Development put in an application to rezone the nearly three-acre piece of land for commercial use, to put in two buildings totaling 24,500 square feet of retail and restaurants. 

However, only 24,250 square feet is allowed for any development at the site. The commission would have to additionally approve Grata’s request for more. 

Many parents and residents came to the meeting Monday to voice concerns. 

“Retail is very dangerous for children, and the fence that is supposed to help buffer it is going to be essentially right next to the playground, allowing anyone on the commercial property to access our kids and staff through the fence in a very, very close proximity,” said parent Theresa Korte.

Commissioner Steve Troester said he thinks Grata’s application is fine, but, in a perfect world, wouldn’t want retail at the location. 

“We’re a victim of our own success,” Troester said.

Another parent said her fourth grade and second grade boys walk to and from school every day, which is one of the reasons they wanted to buy a house nearby. 

“I would ask the planning commission deny the request to rezone in order to protect this special community,” the parent said. 

In 2007, the council denied a request to rezone the area for office space. A church bought it the same year. Then in 2010, the church wanted to use the site for religious purposes, but never submitted an application for a plan. 

Travis Schram, president of Grata Development, sent 41 Action News this statement:

“We have been working diligently with the staff of the Blue Valley School District to incorporate student safety into our development plan.  We have made a number of alterations to our plan based on their input including adding fencing and landscape buffers that are in places up to 3 times what is required by city code.  We look forward to continuing to work with the Blue Valley School District  and Overland Park city staff to ensure a development that is a positive contribution to the area while keeping student safety as a top priority.” 

Korte said in a post-Sandy Hook society, parents and teachers are overly sensitive to security issues, and that student safety should be paramount. 

“[The development] does not match the character of the area. It does present traffic concerns, but ultimately we are adding risk to an elementary school that is just not necessary,” said Korte. 

“Probably one of my concerns has to do with the number of u-turns at this intersection,” Commissioner Janie Thacker said.

City staff says there will be a number of u-turns made when people access the development, but it’s a safe driving maneuver.

A traffic study said the site would see 98 new trips to and from during the peak PM hour. 

Access to the site is from 151st Street and from Quivira Road. According to the city, Grata initially proposed access onto Monrovia in order to avoid u-turn access to the property. 

In response to neighbor concerns, this access point has been removed. The drive from Quivira Road into the site has been shortened to not extend along the entire southern boundary. 

The site also falls into the Johnson County Airport interest area, which is 3/4 mile to the west. The airport commission will review the request, too.

The proposal passed 7-2. 

The full commission will take on the topic at its meeting at 7:30 p.m. on October 1.