Thursday, Oct. 04 2012 5:37PM
Owners worry about red tape for repairs
Lee’s Summit Main Street offers to clarify rules for downtown
By Russ Pulley
Lee’s Summit property owners in the downtown are reacting with some concern over mandatory design standards proposed by Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street.
Main Street wants to add stricter architectural standards to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance, covering the downtown commercial core and a transition zone surrounding it where businesses are mixed with residences. Often those businesses are in buildings which were formerly homes.
About 25 property owners had questions about how much red tape the design standards would impose on them for routine maintenance.
They also asked for clarification of what kinds of materials would be allowed if they needed to repair major storm damage.
The proposed standards don’t allow steel or vinyl, which is now already on buildings in the district.
Christine Bushyhead, who presented the standards at an informational meeting Oct. 3, said the intent is to provide consistency of appearance and promote reinvestment downtown.
Main Street’s Design Committee used guidelines that are suggested by the Lee’s Summit Historic Preservation Commission for downtown projects, but tried to make them more development friendly for the mandatory requirements, she said.
The standards would require a new building renovation to resemble structures with the same setbacks and mass. The standards call for materials that fit in the character of downtown, often brick or wood.
Design standards would be considered in the normal processes now in place for new construction or major renovations which need approval from the city.
There would be additional rules and permits required for demolition of historic buildings that require permission from the Historic Preservation Commission. But the commission decisions could be appealed to the City Council.
She noted that Main Street, as an organization for nearly 25 years, has been working to make Lee’s Summit’s downtown a vibrant place.
“We are a rock star now, and we want to stay at this level,” Bushyhead said.
The design standards are intended to retain the flavor of downtown’s early 20th-century look, she said.
Bushyhead said materials like steel or vinyl could be “grandfathered” for repairs, but wouldn’t be allowed for new construction or a major rehabilitation.
Dan Van Petten, a homeowner in downtown, objected to a requirement for permits for exterior repairs on his home. Owners also asked how permit requirements might affect emergency repairs like a broken window.
“The fact I’m in a historic district shouldn’t penalize me if I want to fix something,” Van Petten said.
Bushyhead noted that for minor repairs, the proposed standards allowed a property owner to get a permit administratively at City Hall, which should go quickly. The owner would not need to go to the Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission or City Council for that kind of work. Property owners at the meeting reacted with skepticism.
Business owner Brad Cox said that in the code there are various stipulations for “change of use” and other code requirements which city staff might interpret as requiring much more.
“The fall-back defense is everything kicks in,” Cox said.
Property owners asked that the standards to clearly specify exceptions for routine repairs.
Bushyhead said she understood the concerns and would take them back to Main Street’s Design Committee Oct. 5, which was planning to continue work on the standards based on comments from the meeting with property owners.
Next the design standards would be taken to the City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee for review. Then the changes could go to the Planning Commission and the full City Council for public hearings before they would be voted on by the council.