Proposed home building regulations in Prairie Village, Kansas, are one step closer to taking effect, after being approved unanimously by the Planning Commission at a public hearing Tuesday night.
The new rules were proposed earlier this year in response to many residents' concerns that a growing number of old houses in the area have been torn down and replaced with much larger houses.
The guidelines would require trees in each yard and a certain percentage of green space — the bigger the plot of land, the greater the percentage. The size of garages, and exterior walls, which would require windows depending on their size, would also be regulated.
The Planning Commission invited public feedback on the regulations, and, over the course of Tuesday night's four-hour meeting, made a few small tweaks to the guidelines before voting 7-0 to approve them.
Pat Kaufman owned a home in Prairie Village for 25 years. When she moved to Shawnee, Kansas, she said she did her best to find a buyer who wouldn't tear it down. But, she said, the buyer she went with turned it over to a developer who promptly tore it down.
"A giant house was built on it," she said. "It matches the character of the neighborhood, but it's way too big for the neighborhood."
Kaufman said these "McMansions" destroy the charm of the neighborhood.
"For Prairie Village to continue to be a vital and desired area, they need to be very cautious about how they develop it," she said. "Otherwise, they'll destroy the home values in the area."
Resident Heather Rubesch said four homes have been torn down on her block in the past year, with a fifth on the way. The construction has been a constant nuisance, she said, but even more than that, her concern is how the new development is changing the community.
"We bought our house because we loved Prairie Village," she said. "It seems that people aren't buying for community and schools anymore. We seem to have a lot of people moving in with the sole desire for profit, turning a quick buck rather than establishing themselves in the community and living here for years."
Councilmember Tucker Poling said, for the most part, he's seen a lot of support for the proposed regulations. That's despite a handful of builders and developers who recently started to push back.
Lynneah Gregory of Reconstruct KC is one — she's a homebuilder with several clients in Prairie Village. Her own home building drew criticism from neighbors a few years ago.
She said the regulations appealed to her when they were first presented at a hearing, but driving home afterward, she said she noticed house after house that would not meet the standards proposed if they were rebuilt today.
And, she said the regulations wouldn't just impact buyers and developers who are tearing down and rebuilding properties, but also residents who want to add on to their existing homes.
"This creates a lot of extra challenges, and a loss of usable space," Gregory said.
From his vantage point, Poling said, the regulations are actually pretty minor.
"In fact, that's really the only complaint I've heard from residents — that we're not doing more to restrict development," Poling said. "These are pretty modest and reasonable regulations."
The regulations now pass to Prairie Village City Council, which will vote on the guidelines October 1.