February 9, 2016

Developers asked to reconsider design plans

Amy Cunningham

The owners of 318 Center, LLC, were sent back to the drawing board following a March 22 planning commission meeting.

Commissioners recommended changes to a proposed condominium project they hope to construct on property located at 318 S. Center Street.

Mike and Joyce O’Connor, operating as 318 Center, LLC, hope to tear down the dwelling on the property to develop it into an eight unit, maintenance-provided senior condo complex.  If all goes well with the first project, the couple hints they may tear down an adjoining property they own to put an additional condominium building at the site.

As part of normal development procedure, they found themselves before the planning commission hoping to gain approval for their project. However, they were left with many more questions than answers on how to please commissioners with a structure that is both functional and aesthetically appealing.

According to the city’s website, the Planning Commission for the city of Gardner, is a citizen body that reviews development proposals for compliance with the city’s adopted plans and development policies. Any development within the city is required first to gain the approval of the commission before plans will be sent to the city council for approval.

The O’Connors were hoping to have their project approved during last week’s meeting, however the planning commissioners told the couple that the plans need more tweaking before they’ll be ready to recommend them to the city council for approval.

Harold Phelps, an engineer working with the O’Connors, spoke on their behalf.  He said that the couple has been working on this project for some time, before the most recent criteria was adopted by the city of Gardner.

“My understanding was you all passed your site standards as late as November of last year,” he stated to commissioners.  “The O’Connors started looking at and designing this last year.”
Commissioners took issue with the orientation of the building, shown in plans to face north.

They debated the density of the complex – the structure will put 8.3 dwellings per acre, .3 dwellings more than the requirement allows. Commissioners also had problems with the height of the three-story structure, which exceeds the 35-foot requirement established by the city.

Commissioner Dan Popp said even with a change in the pitch of the roof, the structure would exceed the maximum height requirement. The O’Connors plan to install elevators that will, most likely, operate with a hoisting mechanism that will require additional height, Popp explained.

He also said that the couple failed to provide drawings showing louvers and fans that would be required if parking is located beneath the building on the first floor as planned. He worried how those would be incorporated into the building’s aesthetics.

City staff showed several dwelling structures in the area, including 340, 400 and 420 S. Center Streets. Phelps felt those photographs were not indicative of other structures in the area.

“That’s rather selective,” he said.  “If you take a real picture of every house in this area, most are real boxy and don’t have the architectural details shown in these pictures.”

The property’s owner and the developer of the project, Joyce O’Connor, took to the microphone to explain the couple’s deep roots in the community and their concern for maintaining a certain look and feel to the neighborhood.

“Nobody is more concerned about value than we are because of our personal residence and our ties with the community,” she said.  The couple’s home is just around the corner on Kansas Avenue from where the condos will be built.

She told commissioners there is a market for maintenance provided senior housing that Gardner is missing.  As a realtor in the area, she has had to turn people away from the city because there are no homes that fit that model.

O’Connor asked commissioners what they would need specifically to change in order to gain approval to proceed.

Commissioner Andy Copeland told the couple he was unsure, but changes did need to be made.

“I’m not an architect, I can’t tell you what I’m after, but I would like to see more character to the front,” he said.

Popp echoed his sentiment saying, “I mean, I don’t want todesign the building for you.” He suggested using different colors and varying the heights and materials used to create visual interest for the front of thestructure.  He recommended the coupledrive to 135th and Metcalf to view some apartments that have been constructed using the same materials the O’Connors have proposed to see howthey used varying heights and faux windows to create a look that is visually appealing.

“The biggest things are the fans and vents that are going tobe dictated by codes.  That becomes an object on the elevation and (will stick out like a) sore thumb,” he said.


  1. This is a problem.

    “O’Connor asked commissioners what they would need specifically to change in order to gain approval to proceed.

    Commissioner Andy Copeland told the couple he was unsure, but changes did need to be made.

    “I’m not an architect, I can’t tell you what I’m after, but I would like to see more character to the front,” he said”

    If Copeland isn’t an architect then why is he telling her there are changes to be made? If we’re going to welcome businesses and developers into Gardner they can’t be talked to or treated like this.

  2. Interesting says:

    What I find interesting is that Popp referred the couple to 135th and Metcalf….well this is Gardner not Overland Park. If I wanted to live in Overland Park then I would move there. Stop trying to turn our small town into Overland Park…..if Popp likes the look and feel of OP then maybe he should live there. The O’Conner’s have lived in this community for more than the 30 years that I have lived here and have a great idea of what our community should look like. The Gardner Planning Commission should fiquire out what they want before people spend time, energy, and income creating a plan. As a business owner in the community I can attest to random acts of idiocracy that our city leaders have to offer when presented with something new. Maybe they should do their homework and come up with the rules and not try to develop them as they go. “I can’t tell you what I’m after” does not work for me.

  3. Who appointed these members to the Electric Board and the Planning Commission?????

  4. Tory Roberts says:

    I am a member of the Gardner Planning Commission and I had different opinions than the other commissioners that were not noted in the above story. I was not concerned that the Front of the building did not face Center Street. I was also OK with the Harmony and Density issues noted. I stated this during the meeting. Additionally, in regards to the Austin Patio item from an earlier story, I too was OK with the plan that was presented last week and did not see the need more modifications to the patio. i stated my opinions on both issues during the meeting. Please contact me for questions, concerns, issues, etc… at tory@kc.rr.com

  5. Tory you need to speak up then. This is embarrassing to the community that we would do something to one of our own loyal citizens that wants to try to better the area, let alone someone coming from outside Gardner.

  6. If you have ever read Tory’s comments in the past and present, you would know she regurgitates whatever Drovetta is saying at the time – Drovetta appointed her and she will continue to be one to go along to get along – just like the appointed council. They wouldn’t have been appointed if they weren’t Drovettites. These people have a rubber stamp in their hand and that is how they govern since they rubber stamp anything and everything placed before them.

  7. Go to http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/mutest,0,7089664.story to read about the town of Empire, Nevada. All their eggs were in one basket much like what Gardner and Edgerton are doing with the intermodal and warehouse and truck cities. Diversification should always be utilized in your personal finances and with how your cities are made up. Every time the economy has a hiccup people will be layed off from those low-paying, no benefit jobs at the intermodal and warehouses, etc. – hire and fire jobs never bring about stability for a community. And low wages will never give you any good sales tax revenue because the people don’t have the money to buy much other than food and gas and those low-paying jobs will create social costs up the gut that you will have to be paying for.

    Your elected officials can guide you or sell you down the river or they can truly bring about better communities. Time will be telling what we all will be living with in the years to come by the knowledge, vision, moral values, etc. of those who you elect into office and who are government employees and also by whether citizens are doing their jobs.

  8. Drovettites? How about Drovettians? Drovettanoids? Drovettatians? Drovettons?

  9. Interesting says:

    Why to change the subject. Great for ACE, good to have them back. They must not have had to talk with the planning commission about reopening. They better check with Dopp first.

  10. And in totally unrelated news, Judith brings up the intermodal and the happenings somewhere other than Gardner, KS.

  11. Not changing the subject, just posting some good news instead of the biased drivel that this outlet likes to write.

  12. Steve Hale, I hate to think how much of your employer’s time you spend each day posting on this site………….

  13. Judy, Judy, Judy, there are many in this little village who find the Gardner News less than:

    A) accurate
    B) professional
    C) objective
    D) all of the above

  14. Concerned says:

    Either way we should all be concerned about how this board goes about approving developers plans. Sounds like the planning commission could use a shake down.

  15. Nimbykiller says:

    Tell me, if the O’Connors were developing low income apartment housing would you still think this project is good? I am willing to bet not. And one more thing, if this was right next to your property would you support it? Yes it is being designed as a senior living condo. BUT that does not mean that it couldn’t turn into an apartment complex without the “seniors”. The question needs to be asked, are there any senior restrictions being put in place to ONLY allow seniors to live there?

    Its amazing to me how short sighted some people are. Planning deals with 5-10-20 year time lines. What a planning commission does is to try to GUIDE development in the city with the regulations that are brougt before the public for comments before they are even approved. How many of you out there know what the zoning of the vacant property near you is. I am willing to bet most of you do not. You may be surprised.

  16. Well, Stevie Wonderless you will soon be out of City Hall and I would think that would improve the stench at City Hall perhaps a little perhaps, however, I bet you will continue to post under your cowardly username……………..

  17. This city has no leaderhip, none! That is why we are having so many issues with community development, planning, everything.

    The mayor is weak, the council is weak. Our city administrator for the longest time was checked out and showed very few leadership qualities. 10 years of crappy leadership and now we’ve come to this.

  18. Paul R., you are so right. What the citizens have received and are still receiving are half-truths, people who are not forthcoming – you have to drag the facts from them, conniving, manipulation and dirty, rotten politics with no moral values whatsoever. There will need to be more elections and more housecleaning and the stench will remain in the air for years……….and you will pay dearly for that stench. It will take a superfund to clean up the mess.

  19. Fortress says:

    Why doesn’t the planning board city email addresses? Have to agree with Judith, this has a stench about it.

  20. weak mayor? says:

    The mayor’s not weak, it’s just all that hot air he spews robs oxygen from his brain. He should be a preacher as long winded as he is.

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