Olathe approves 1 rezoning request for controversial development near Lenexa, rejects 2 others

Woodland Forest

The Olathe City Council voted to deny two of the three rezoning requests made by the developer for the Woodland Forest project along K-10 Highway near the Lenexa city line. The council approved the request for single-family homes while denying the requests for an apartment complex and retail space. Above, a digital rendering of the Woodland Forest development. The portion of the project approved by the city council includes those portions labeled "R1" on the map. Image via city documents.

The saga of the Woodland Forest development, a mixed-use residential project near the Lenexa city line, will continue even after the project’s three rezoning requests were presented to the Olathe City Council at their Tuesday meeting.

After a couple of hours of discussion, the city council voted to approve just one of three rezoning requests, while sending the most controversial rezoning proposal back to the planning commission.

With the three requests, developer Clay Blair Services Co. was seeking approval to develop nearly 55 acres of land just to the southeast of K-10 Highway and Woodland Road in north Olathe, just across the highway from Lenexa.

The developer wants to turn this portion of Olathe’s Woodland Corridor, which stretches south from K-10, into a mixture of single family homes, a senior living facility, a luxury apartment complex and retail space.

These plans, however, deviated from the city’s Woodland Corridor Plan, which imagined entirely single-family neighborhoods for the area.

Due to the difference between the proposed plan and the city’s ideas for the corridor, many neighbors in the surrounding area were opposed to the rezoning and came out to speak in opposition.

Request #1: Woodland Forest residences

The first rezoning request calls for approximately 15 acres of land to be developed into 20 single-family homes and a 72-unit assisted living facility.

Closest to the surrounding neighborhoods in the area, this portion of the development gained a relatively high level of support from residents when presented at Olathe’s planning commission meeting in November.

“This [first rezoning] is a step in the right direction for this property… a majority of the correspondents are in favor of single family,” resident Eric Neuer said at the November meeting.

While the city council did express some minor concerns about adequate parking and green space with this rezoning request, they still voiced similar support for this portion of project.

In an unanimous vote, the 15-acre rezoning request was passed on Tuesday.

“I’m approving this single-family rezoning because that was a part of the Woodland Corridor Plan,” Councilmember Marge Vogt said. “It’s what we promised.”

Request #2: Woodland Forest apartments

For the second and most-disputed rezoning request, which was unanimously denied by the Olathe Planning Commission last month, the developer asked for 34 acres of land to be converted into a 381-unit apartment complex.

Curt Peterson, a lawyer with Polsinelli representing the developer, said because the property sat along K-10 Highway, it was not profitable to build only single-family homes because they would not sell well.

“The question is whether a residential developer today will sink millions of dollars into this piece of property … with the confidence that those lots after spending that immense investment can all be sold at a price that would give them a return on their money,” Peterson said. “And the answer is no.”

However, a handful of neighbors who came to speak in opposition to this second rezoning request disagreed with Peterson’s statement.

“Over a two-year period, 419 residential homes sold, including new build and existing homes, near the K-10 Highway with average sale price being over half a million dollars,” resident Sally Firnhaber said.

Other neighbors’ concerns for this rezoning request also included fears of increased traffic, an increase in density to the area and, overall, how much it deviated from the Woodland Corridor Plan.

In a 4-3 vote, the council remanded the rezoning request back to the planning commission in hopes that the developer would work on reducing the density, addressing traffic concerns and work more closely with city staff and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The second rezoning request will be reviewed by the Olathe Planning Commission in the falling months.

Request #3: Woodland Forest shops

The third rezoning request, which was also unanimously denied by the planning commission, was withdrawn by the developer before it was presented to the council on Tuesday.

“It’s a little bit of a pivot but we are officially withdrawing this third application,” Peterson announced early on in the meeting.

If it had been passed, the rezoning request would have allowed the developer to convert four acres of land into anywhere between 14,000 to 21,000 square feet of stand-alone retail space for a gas station and convenience store.