Six vacant acres at 21st and Maize Road soon will be home for a three-story apartment complex after nearly 20 changes in the project somewhat eased concerns of homeowners in the area.
The project cleared its final hurdle Tuesday when the Wichita City Council approved amended plans for the 130-unit complex near the southeast corner of the busy intersection behind McDonald’s. The council unanimously agreed with the proposal, which included some last-minute tweaking by a District Advisory Board as late as Monday night.
Multiple changes to the plan were made in recent months as the Bennington Place complex worked its way through the system and compromises were reached.
“This certainly hasn’t been an easy issue because you’re talking about a community that initially simply wanted it to go away, period,” said council member Jeff Longwell, whose district includes the complex. “So to get from more than 400 folks who somehow felt they were affected to, ‘We like now what you have put in place’ is commendable to the patience of a lot of folks who worked on this.”
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Tuesday’s vote went smoothly. No one from the public addressed the council about the complex, and there was little discussion by council members before the vote was taken.
Some homeowners in the area had objected to having the complex built at all, citing concerns about the height of the apartments, increased traffic and decrease in property values. A dozen houses abut the complex on the south side.
“Ideally, not having them would have been the best,” Sandra Whittmore, one of the homeowners who objected to the apartments, said after being contacted following the meeting. “They worked the best they could with us without losing. I guess you could say we’re OK with it. It was the best we could do.”
Developers agreed to 17 changes to the project during a series of meetings with homeowners, including six that were added at Monday’s advisory board meeting.
Included in that list was covering at least 60 percent of the apartment’s exterior walls with brick or stone and increasing the height of the masonry wall around the three sides of the complex from 6 feet to 8 feet. The wall on the west side will be 6 feet.
In addition, it will be a gated complex, requiring a pass code to open the gates between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., although Whittmore said she understood from Monday’s meeting that it would be secured from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“Ten o’clock is late to be having people go in and out,” Whittmore said, adding she plans to contact Longwell about the issue.
A buffer of trees will be planted 27 ½ feet apart along the south and east side of the complex. City code requires 40 feet. The trees must be at least 15 feet tall at the time they are planted, according to the list of agreed conditions.
“I think everybody has accepted where we’re at,” said Greg Ferris, a former council member who represented the developers. “I don’t know if anyone is happy with a compromise. Compromise is everyone giving a little. The developer is OK where we ended up.”
Whittmore said she hopes the city will later make 20th Street a dead end at Maize Road to reduce traffic.
Mike Brand is heading up a group of investors in building the upscale apartments with one and two bedrooms. He has said he hasn’t been able to attract commercial development for the vacant land.
The area is zoned for limited commercial, but the area is also regulated by a community zoning plan. That plan is more restrictive and didn’t allow an apartment complex.
Tuesday’s action was necessary to amend that plan, so apartments could be built.
The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and District Advisory Board had previously approved the project. A decision from the council was delayed a month so there could be additional public input and the board could review the plans again.
Work on the project is expected to begin this spring.