Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Neighbors oppose duplex development

October 11, 2001

The prospect of duplexes in a central Eudora neighborhood has some neighbors seeing not double, but red.

Last week the planning commission decided to keep a public hearing on the issue open until the meeting next month. Commission members Rod Moyer and Glenn Bartlett voted against prolonging the discussion to allow such development.

The plan that has some neighbors in an uproar would add 24 duplex lots and 10 single-family lots to a triangular stretch of land bordered by 14th Street, K-10 and the stalled Whispering Meadows plat.

Proponents say the duplexes would add affordable housing and other positives to the Eudora community. Others worry duplexes will decrease property values and create other problems in the neighborhood.

Lance Johnson from the engineering planning firm Peridian Group representing the developer, James Hoover, Jr., presented the plan to the commission with a color layout of the neighborhood, including trees and other landscaping planned for the 13-acre property. Johnson emphasized the level of handiwork that would go into the buildings.

"They don't have to be rental, and they don't have to compromise quality," Johnson said. "We feel Eudora is in need of quality townhome development."

The "upscale townhomes," as Johnson described them, would be sold for about $120,000 rather than rented out. Moreover, the neighborhood would include covenants prohibiting boats and RVs from being parked outside among other covenants.

Johnson said the duplexes are situated to create a barrier between the single family homes, both planned for the development and already existing homes, and K-10 Highway.

Since the homes near the highway will be a buffer, along with a landscaped easement, Hoover asked the commission if the zone could count as public green space, which would allow for smaller lot size without approval.

Commission member Kurt von Achen said that since the easement is required anyway, it couldn't count as public green space.

With Eudora growing at the rate it is, Johnson said, multifamily housing isn't keeping up with single-family housing.

"We feel Eudora has been able to provide people a lower cost place to live than the other cities," he said, citing young and retired people who need affordable housing.

But those who have single-family homes in the area have issues with living next to duplexes, some citing Lawrence as an example of a city where rental property and multifamily housing depreciates the value of single-family neighborhoods.

Resident and city council member Dan Gregg went up to the diagram and pointed to the duplex lots that would back into proposed single-family lots.

"It's unfair to developers who already purchased land," Gregg said.

Planners and developers generally try to accommodate homeowners by putting duplexes back-to-back with single-family homes rather than putting the two across the street from each other.

Neighborhood resident Robin Ross, who lives on East 14th Street, spoke to the commission about her grievances against the proposed site.

Traffic would put a strain on the neighborhood, she said, especially since 14th and 15th streets aren't completed, forcing much of the connector traffic onto already-busy 13th Street. Moreover, parking along the neighborhood streets is already a problem that would only get worse, she said.

Each townhome would be equipped to house four cars in the driveway, plus a garage, Johnson said.

Ross then read a letter from another resident, Elizabeth Crawford, which said she'd rather see more affordable single-family homes constructed over townhomes.

Spencer McCabe gave the commission input not only as a resident but as Eudora's Fire Chief.

"I'm not comfortable with the safety aspect of what you see in the townhomes in the traffic aspect," he said. McCabe also addressed the issue of the proposed reduction in lot size, which he said would pose a greater fire risk.

Johnson countered by saying that easements between some homes in Lawrence are about 10 feet apart. That doesn't mean it's the standard industry practice, but that doesn't mean it's out of the norm, either.

The commission members asked questions and expressed their opinions on the proposal.

Looking at the ordinances as well as photographs of the proposed duplexes, Richard Campbell said they sounded like nice homes.

"Some of these things would be very desirable," he said of neighborhood covenants. "This would look nicer than most of the areas we have if you could enforce it."

Fellow commission member Moyer questioned use of the term "luxury" for the townhomes.

"Will people buy an upscale townhome as a buffer?" he asked.

It's a delicate balance, Johnson said. People will spend $120,000 on a home near the highway, but not $150,000.

Rose House, commission member, said the duplexes looked beautiful.

"You don't want something contradictory to your neighborhood," she said.

Johnson said the developers would be willing to construct no more than 10 or 12 duplexes in a year's time to allow the community to adjust to the change.

However, the commission voted to keep the public debate open and at von Achen's suggestion have an engineer look at the plans as well. With the absence of a planning consultant or full-time engineer, the commission and the city face problems, he said.

"This planning commission is not as good at working with these little issues," he said. "We need to work on some issues. This doesn't mean it's going to get approved."

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