Vantage project upsets Shawnee neighbors

A plan to put apartments just south of the Shawnee Civic Center campus has drawn the concern of neighbors, who fear it could snarl traffic and become subsidized housing.

The Shawnee City Council will consider a preliminary development plan and rezoning of The Vantage at Shawnee at its meeting Dec. 14, to be held in the Shawnee Justice Center, 5850 Renner Road. Numerous residents voiced their objections to the development during a recent Planning Commission meeting.

The developers, America First Real Estate Group, want to build 312 apartment units in 14 buildings on vacant land at Pflumm Road and West 62nd Street. The development is described as luxury, market-rate apartments and would include a clubhouse, dog park, a pool and cabana, plus a combination of covered and open air parking. The 28.66-acre site also includes a storm water retention pond in its northwest corner.

The development is to be gated, with electronic entry and access restricted to residents and their guests.

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The Vantage is on the site of the former Cobblestone development, a proposed senior citizen community. That development was the city’s first Tax Increment Financing district in 2008, but it never got off the ground after the city approved the public financing vehicle. The Vantage developers have not asked for tax incentives or abatements for their project.

Residents who turned out for the lengthy public comment period at the Planning Commission questioned the developer’s promise that the Vantage would be an asset to the neighborhood, noting that half of the developer’s projects elsewhere have been subsidized housing. Top concerns were the traffic along Pflumm and whether the area could eventually be turned into low-income housing.

Traffic is already bad on the winding road, several residents said, and some complained of not being able to get out of their driveways. The development will make it worse, they said.

“It is going to be terrible,” said Melissa Nachbar, a neighbor on West 61st Street. Like some others at the hearing, she worried about the impact of apartments on Broken Arrow Elementary School.

“Every development in Shawnee is beautiful when they first build it. There’s no guarantee that this will remain a beautiful development — gates or no gates,” she said.

Roger Chalk, a neighbor on Widmer Road, outlined a list of concerns. He said that if the pond area is removed from the total acreage, the density becomes too high for city planning guidelines. He also said he doubted the developer’s traffic projections, saying the increased traffic and noise would bring down property values.

“This development is not appropriate to the area surrounding it,” he said, urging the commission to deny it.

Others at the meeting compared the Vantage unfavorably to the Cobblestone development. Some doubted the developer’s estimates on the number of new cars that would enter the neighborhood. They also questioned a traffic study that predicted less traffic than what Cobblestone would have brought in.

The developers have stressed that the apartments are market-rate. The company develops many types of housing — urban high-end as well as subsidized, said America First representative Dominic Vaccaro. Rents for the apartments range from $750 for one bedroom to $1,300 for three.

“We are proud of the product we build and we know it will be a first-class product that will compete very favorably,” in the area, he said by phone later. Vaccaro said the developers have agreed to put fencing around the pond, which had been one of the neighborhood’s concerns.

The planning commission approved the rezoning and preliminary plan 8-2, with Commissioners Alan Willoughby and Doug Hill voting against. It now goes to the full council for consideration.

Roxie Hammill: roxie.hammill.news@gmail.com

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