Proposed special zoning district in Leawood aims to create more affordable housing options

On Wednesday, the Leawood Planning Commission discussed a potential new zoning district for residential areas, which could bring more variety and affordability to the city's housing marking. Photo courtesy of Leawood city documents.

The Leawood Planning Commission this week discussed a potential special zoning district along the 135th Street corridor that city leaders hope could bring more variety and affordability to the city’s housing marking.

The details: The purpose of the proposed new zoning district is to diversify housing structures in Leawood outside of the traditional and often high-priced single-family homes typically seen within city limits.

  • If created, the district, which would generally run along 135th Street between Nall and State Line, would allow for other types of housing besides traditional single-family homes, including brownstones, duplexes, triplexes and townhomes.
  • The idea is that if the homes inside this special zoning district would be smaller in size and more diverse in appearance, they would give homebuyers for affordable options in the city.
  • Notably, the plan being discussed would not allow multi-family apartments in the special zoning district.

Key quote: “I don’t want to put a bunch of apartments in. I think we have too many apartments now. I think we’re looking for smaller homes with ownership,” Commissioner David Coleman said.

Background: Discussion about the city’s lack of diversity in both size and pricing for housing began earlier this year when the Leawood City Council reviewed its 135th Street Community Plan.

  • This plan initially called for 143 acres of undeveloped land along 135th Street between State Line Road and Nall Avenue to turn into a variety of retail and office space, with small residential sections mixed in.
  • However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some city leaders and officials have worried that the plan is out of date, with particular concerns that there is no longer as much need for large retail and office spaces with more people working from home.

Feedback: While most commissioners approved of the idea for the new zoning district, concerns were expressed about how the affordability element would work.

  • “When I think affordable, I think of housing that costs less to keep people in town, but someone’s going to come in and flip it unless you have some kind of price controls on that particular housing,” Coleman said.
  • Commissioner Marc Elkins agreed, saying that homes may initially sell for what is seen as an affordable price in the Leawood area, but the market is going to drive that price up in future transactions.

What’s next: Now that the committee has provided some input on the proposed zoning district, staff will go back and draft a policy for it based on their feedback.

  • It will then be presented to the commission to be voted upon, but the zoning district would ultimately need to be approved by the city council to go into effect.