Mission candidates for mayor and city council on the issues: Building height requirement with three floors
The Post asked readers in August what questions they wanted to hear from candidates running for mayor of Mission and city council seats. Based on this feedback, we developed a five-point questionnaire with the issues most important to mission residents.
Each day this week, we’ll be posting contestants’ answers to one of the five questions. Today we are posting the candidates’ answers to the following question:
Mission stands out in Johnson County for its “small town” vibe, but some residents say they fear sentiment may be shaken by the new development plans. It should be noted that the governing body has granted exemptions to the three-storey height requirement for buildings on a few occasions in recent years. Do you think the city should stick to the three story height requirement? Why or why not?
Below are the responses the Post received from applicants on this question:
The city will wither away without any revenue coming in one way or another. Let’s get rid of unnecessary codes and regulations that hinder economic growth. The gaps are good but are a slippery slope. It must be applied 100% or removed. The mission must evolve over time and remove the requirement.
Not necessarily. On the one hand, the East Gateway and West Gateway neighborhoods, as defined in the overall city plan, require buildings of 3 to 8 storeys, and in these places this height is quite appropriate. In contrast, a more sober height profile is welcome in the downtown area (“main street” areas), but 3 floors can still be too restrictive. Height and density are also appropriate in parts of this area, but with careful consideration of the context, topography and views of neighbors.
The Locale and Mission Bowl projects are both good examples of projects where increased heights are appropriate. In the first case, the location directly on Johnson Drive, adjacent only to other relatively dense and walkable commercial plots, means that increased height and density is fine. In the latter case, the surrounding topography, proximity to dense commercial properties, and floodplain issues mean that the height variation is both necessary and non-intrusive.
Many similar plots would be too restricted by a 3 story line, so in general I am in favor of thoughtful deviations from the rule in the downtown area. But the vibe and layout of the small town of Mission means that a one-sided increase in height limits is probably not appropriate either. I would support a small increase in height limits under specific conditions or for specific plots, but failing that, considering each variation on a case-by-case basis is a good approach.
My father has owned a small business in Mission since 1995. I have observed so many developments, redevelopments and a good handful of transformations along Johnson Drive over the years. I am a strong supporter of the charm of the small town of Mission, so I too share these same concerns.
I felt the same when I voted No at the Locale. It is a beautiful building and a great addition to Mission; I just didn’t think it was directly owned by Johnson Drive.
There is a three story height requirement for a reason, and I will stick to that requirement unless there is a compelling need or response from citizens not to. Like any other big or complex decision, it’s not always black and white. Having a uniformed area code is a great guide, but so is the ability to deviate from it when needed.
Flora of Sollie
We are currently in the process of updating our comprehensive plan, which looks at land use in Mission. I’m on the steering committee, and one of the areas we’ve talked about a lot is increasing density. We need increased density to support our beloved local business district on Johnson Drive and to improve our tax base, but we need to balance these needs with the wants of residents, including those of our existing single-family neighborhoods. Through the overall plan process and subsequent code / zoning updates, we will be able to assess where (if any) it makes sense to generally allow buildings over three stories high. I support this methodical approach, which includes opportunities for community contribution, as we pay close attention to what development looks like that works for Mission residents and existing businesses.
In all areas where we are considering new developments and where there is a height restriction (three stories or whatever), I think we currently need to assess things project by project, looking at the benefits that the project will bring, as well. than to take into account the comments of neighboring owners. For me, allowing developers to build more than three floors for The Locale (approved before I was a board member) and Mission Bowl Apartments (which I voted for) made sense given their location in side of the main shopping districts and the generally positive comments received regarding our community’s projects. While I was on the board, we also considered an apartment development project along Martway near City Hall (to replace the “Pizza Hut” buildings). I was opposed to this plan until the height was reduced to comply with the code (the plan was still 4 floors but below the maximum overall height of the code). Done right, some taller residential or mixed-use developments should not damage the ambiance of the small town of Mission and should in fact help preserve the Johnson Drive business district by increasing potential customers and helping foster the walk in this area.
I like the vibe of Mission, like a small town within a big city. However, this is not a simple black and white question. It is possible to have five story buildings in Mission, but we have to be careful. I think it would depend on the location of the building and what surrounds it. Take the example of the new building on Johnson Drive, the Locale, other businesses surround it, so it works. Suppose it’s across Johnson Drive then I would say no. It would eclipse the properties to the north. The old Mission Bowl is planned to have a 4 or 5 storey multi-purpose building. The houses are to the south and located higher up, that might work. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to look at the whole plan (area) and see if it works!
I grew up in small towns in Wyoming. The small town vibe is part of the reason I love living in Mission. We get the best of both worlds by living in a small community within a larger metropolitan area. When I return to these small towns, I find that they are no longer the vibrant communities they once were. The median age of their residents has increased as citizens age and young people leave for better opportunities. Small businesses are closing because there aren’t enough customers to keep the doors open. New families do not move in due to the lack of amenities that pique their interests. The quality of schools and community health centers is declining as it is difficult to recruit teachers, doctors and other types of professionals in a dying or stagnant community.
I have also seen other cities in our metro area transform into urban areas and lose their small town charm. Big box stores and corporate chains are replacing mom and pop stores. Multi-level apartment buildings eclipse the surrounding buildings, leaving them old and run down. I believe we have the opportunity to create a balance in Mission. We are fortunate that the median age of our citizens is younger than in the past according to the 2020 census. Young families and professionals are still discovering the benefits of living in Mission. A vibrant business district, affordable housing, proximity to Mission and the quality of our schools play a big part in this change, but so does the small town vibe. We need to preserve our small town atmosphere while making Mission modern and keeping it relevant. Mission City Council should view each new development project through the lens of what a modern small town looks like by blending new construction into our existing business district with a modern twist. The Town of Mission has worked hard over the years to rebuild storm sewers and other infrastructure in order to move forward with renovations to existing buildings and help with the construction of new ones. It makes sense to keep some of the old building requirements and grant height differences over three floors on a case-by-case basis. The Council should also carefully consider the number of house demolitions and reconstructions it approves. As the construction of new and larger homes increases property value and the amount of property tax the city receives, Mission must maintain a number of affordable housing options. Low-rental housing should be a point of attention, where appropriate. Balance is essential to maintain Mission’s small town vibe, affordability of housing, new businesses, construction and quality of life.
Did not respond.
On Wednesday, we will publish the candidates’ answers to the following question:
Climate change continues to be a priority for many readers of the Shawnee Mission Post. What steps can the mission take to prepare neighborhoods for increased flooding, as well as episodes of extreme heat and drought? What steps would you like the city to take to build climate resilience?