The first test of how strictly Lee’s Summit will enforce its new architectural standards for downtown is underway.
A proposal for a dental office, by Lee’s Summit orthodontist Craig Grider, prompted some objections by Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Inc. and by Planning Commission members who don’t like modifications he is seeking for the project at 101 SW Third St., on the corner of Third and Market streets.
The City Council is expected to hold a hearing on the project on Sept. 19.
The Commission voted 5-4, Aug. 27, to recommend denial of approval for the redevelopment where Grider would relocate his practice. Grider said he was surprised at the vote.
“I think we’ve got a project that’s pretty good and a vast improvement over what’s there now,” Grider said.
He intends to tear down a former gas station that’s been vacant for some time, and erect a one-story brick building.
He originally wanted to use synthetic stone corners and brick facade, but changed his plan after meeting with city staff, which also strongly urged locating the building close to the property line on Third Street.
He said when he began planning the project a year ago, city staff told him standards were being developed, but weren’t exactly sure what their final form would take.
The plan mostly meets the standards, passed by the City Council in March, according to city staff, but Grider is seeking several modifications with staff support.
Brad Culbertson, a member of DLSMS’s board of directors and design committee, asked for strict adherence to the standards at the commission meeting.
“If in the very first project, if we don’t really adhere to the standards, we’re setting a poor precedent for the future,” Culbertson said.
One question was spacing between of three windows on either side of the front door, which was off center, so the distances between were slightly wider on side. The standards call for windows to be symmetrical.
Grider said in an interview that he was changing the design to use larger, six -foot-wide windows, that had more of a retail look and would make the spacing more even.
“In the end, I liked it better,” Grider said, “Hopefully they’ll like it.”
Instead of a solid brick wall to screen the parking lot, Grider wants to use a decorative, wrought-iron fence with brick columns, which city staff said meets the intent of the ordinance. Grider said a solid wall would be too expensive for his budget.
He is also asking for modifications for the setbacks so he can use the same street entrances for the lot and so the front door, which must swing outwards to meet fire code, won’t interfere with the sidewalk.
The alignment would be compatible with other buildings on the street, being close to the Third Street property line, staff said.
Planning Commission members reactions varied, some supporting the small modifications, but others even wanting a larger building.
Frank White, John Reece, Fred Delibero, and Kurt Pycior voted to recommend approval, Kathy Smith, Steven Hilger, Colene Roberts, Fred DeMoro and Jason Norbury voted no. Roberts said she just didn’t like the building and preferred a structure that would extend to the east to the corner of Market, saying the current proposal is a “tiny building on a great big parking lot.”
Roberts said the historic core of the business district covers only a few blocks.
“That’s all we’ve got, and I guess we can’t compromise,” Roberts said.
Kurt Pycior, who redeveloped the Hartley block of downtown, said being inflexible is not the right approach. He noted that the city’s codes have been revised many times to reflect changing or unanticipated conditions. He said individual projects frequently need to be allowed modifications to be practical.
“I think we have lost our way,” Pycior said. “This is great, I supported (downtown standards) but you have to give and take a little bit.”
Grider said he also will ask the city for tax incentives to help with costs of demolishing the gas station and stripping away the old parking lot. He also has to remove a 300-gallon oil tank buried on the site and do some environmental cleanup.