Neighbors of Central Community Church raised some objections to the church’s plans to develop a housing and event complex that will back up onto the Willo-Esque neighborhood in west Wichita, shortly before planners approved the project and sent it on to the City Council.
The new development will include 180 patio homes and apartments, a 165,000-square-foot event center, a 500-700 seat outdoor amphitheater, a school, a youth/fitness center and athletic fields. It’s planned for 33 acres of vacant land just west of the existing church buildings at 6100 W. Maple, near the west bank of the Big Ditch.
The plan has so far encountered little opposition and passed unanimously at the District Advisory Board Wednesday. But at the Planning Commission hearing Thursday, three neighbors questioned what it will mean for their lives.
“I’m very concerned about light, noise,” said neighbor Joan Flynn, who’s worried how it will affect the value of her home.
“Even with just the church being over there, they every once in a great while light it up like a Christmas tree and it’s annoying,” she said. “When I hear there’s going to be a sports field and an amphitheater (and) that the amphitheater would close at midnight, gosh, you know, we have kids in that neighborhood that don’t stay up till midnight and I am very concerned.”
The church has sought throughout the project to allay neighborhood concerns as much as possible.
The pastor, the Rev. Bob Beckler, earlier said the church is committed to getting along with the neighbors. As part of that, the church agreed not to wall or fence off the project to allow neighbors to walk through and enjoy its ponds and paths.
The event center will be used for weddings, fund-raisers and similar low-key similar events. The amphitheater will mostly feature small concerts, outdoor teaching and possibly family movie nights, Beckler said.
Amplification will be limited to keep the sound reasonably confined to the church property, he said.
And although the city permit would allow events to run until midnight, the church plans to wrap up no later than 10 p.m., he said.
Traffic was another concern brought out at Thursday’s meeting.
Neighbor Glen Shore said with construction going on on the nearby interchange of the Kellogg and I-235 freeways, traffic on Maple has been “terrible.”
“I’m amazed that nobody’s even talked about the effect of all this on Maple Street and the traffic that goes through here,” he said.
And neighbor Teresa Miller said she was worried that building heights in the development could go as high as 60 feet.
Consultants representing the church sought to quell those concerns.
The church agreed to a commission request to limit taller buildings to areas of the development that would be separated by a buffer zone of patio homes no taller than two stories.
“Regarding the traffic, there was a traffic study completed for the site,” said Greg Tice, who represented the church. “The impact of our initial development that we’re going to start with does not have an impact on adding more traffic. As we go along we are going to add acceleration and deceleration lanes on the street to help the traffic flow along Maple.”