Developer kills Johnson County apartment plan after pushback from council, neighbors

Following pushback from neighbors and the Shawnee City Council, a developer has withdrawn his proposal for a housing complex off of Kansas 7 Highway.

Lawrence-based Brian Jones Enterprises proposed 184 apartments and townhomes on 16 acres in western Shawnee, between Old K-7 Highway and K-7 Highway, south of 47th Street and north of 55th Street. The project, called The Zarah, included four three-story apartment buildings and seven two-story townhome buildings on the rural land, which now has a 1970s-era home and three greenhouses.

But the project drew strong opposition, with neighbors submitting a protest petition and gathering 430 signatures on, worried that the added housing would increase congestion to roads already backed up by cars hopping on K-7, as well as lead to overflow parking on their streets.

During Monday’s planning commission meeting, Community Development Director Doug Allmon said officials were “set to have a robust discussion” about the project.

But instead, city staff said the developer requested that the rezoning application be withdrawn.

Earlier this summer, the planning commission approved rezoning for the project, with the majority of members deciding the plan met city requirements.

But during a meeting in late August, after three hours of discussion, the City Council voted 7-1 to send the proposal back to the drawing board. The council asked the developer to reduce the housing density, increase parking and address flooding and traffic concerns.

Jason Osborne, national director of business development with the architecture firm Rosemann and Associates, said at the meeting that the development team has worked to design a project that suits the neighborhood and address residents’ concerns. He added the team already reduced the number of units from the amount originally planned.

Councilman Kurt Knappen in August said that safety “is a concern,” and said he’d like to see the developer address some of the neighbors’ concerns, “because they’ve been willing to work with us on other things.”

The council sent the project back to the planning commission.

But ahead of Monday’s commission meeting, developer Brian Jones told staff, according to city documents, that after the council decision, his team discussed how to move forward with the project. They decided to remove the rezoning application from consideration.

Jones did not immediately return The Star’s request for comment on Tuesday.