On Feb. 2, the Wichita City Council will consider whether to allow businessmen Ron Ryan and Paul Gray to build apartments on vacant land near the northwest corner of Central and Maize Road.
Residential and office neighbors oppose the size of Timber Grove Residences, which Ryan and Gray say need to be 72 units in order to work financially.
“This is literally … the only undeveloped piece of property in that area,” Gray says. “It’s behind … these really pretty long lakes. It’s just, like, the optimum spot to do this.”
Ryan says he originally bought the land to build condos out of the AgriBoard product he used to make. When he stopped making the product, Ryan says he talked with Gray about developing the property.
Currently, it’s zoned for office use.
“There’s a reason that for 30 years no one has built offices in there,” Gray says.
He says the northeast corridor of Wichita is much more popular for offices.
Those who live and work in the Central and Maize Road area are concerned about congestion and flooding with too many apartments, says Susan Osborne, a resident who is acting as a spokeswoman for others in the area.
“Our neighborhood is definitely not anti-development,” says Osborne, a one-time planning commission member.
“I really walked into this particular thing thinking surely we can work something out,” she says. “We’re just not comfortable with the size of it.”
Ryan says he’ll abandon his plans if the neighbors “are adamantly opposed” to the project.
“I thought, wow, this would be good for the community,” he says.
Osborne says Ryan and Gray have made a number of concessions, but the number of units is still an issue.
Gray says 72 apartments would increase traffic in the area by 1.3 percent.
“That’s pretty insignificant.”
He says flooding wouldn’t be any more of an issue than if he built offices.
Osborne disagrees with his assessments.
“I would have to call it the overbuilding of that area.”
She says that 48 units are the most that neighbors want.
The planning commission recommends the Council approve a compromise number of 60 units, but Gray says that’s not economically feasible for the development.
Gray says if 72 units aren’t approved, he’ll “go do something else somewhere else” while Ryan will “just have to continue to mow it and hope somebody buys it from him someday.”
Ryan says he doesn’t want a political fight.
“If I can’t do what I want to do on it, I don’t want to mess around,” says Ryan, 77. “I’m too old to get into that kind of silliness now.”