By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
During Tuesday evening’s regular meeting, Liberal’s City Commission voted in favor of the rezoning of lots one through six on block eight in the Prairie Breeze Addition from an R-2 (two-family dwelling district) to an R-3 (multi-family dwelling district). Ordinance No. 4392 was met with some resistance when the commission passed it on to a final reading during the Feb. 8 meeting.
Zoning Administrator Steve Guerrero explained the reason for a need to rezone the property, located on East Pine Street – the Flor de Sol apartment complex.
“This is the second and final reading of the ordinance that calls for the rezoning of lots one through six on block eight of the Prairie Breeze Addition to the City of Liberal,” Guerrero said. “The owner of the property is Overland Property Group, LLC of Topeka. They have asked for this rezone in order to build a multi-family apartment structure which would be a 16-unit apartment building.”
Overland Park Property Group, LLC Partner Pat Beatty explained the process of the construction of Phase 3 of Flor de Sol. He added the demand for apartments in Liberal is rather high.
“This is the third phase that we planned to build here in Liberal,” Beatty said. “We develop apartments all over Kansas, most recently in Salina and we are under construction in Dodge.
“I have to say that Liberal has probably the greatest demand of any place that we have ever built,” he said. “The last 32 units that we built, the moment that we had the building permit, we had 32 units full. It is an incredible demand and it has been a very good project for us.”
Land prices, Beatty said, has made the process of construction in Liberal rather easy for Overland Park Property Group.
“Because the land cost hasn’t been super expensive, we haven’t had to go to the city commission or go through any type of process to ask for any kind of tax incentives to build here in Liberal,” he said. “Where as in Dodge, and we are looking at Garden City, both of those required us to have some sort of tax abatement – Hays did as well.
“So, it has been a win-win situation for us,” he said. “We competed for tax credits that we have to build these 16 units that we are about ready to start construction on – pending the approval of this zoning. With communities all over Kansas, it was well known by the government and Kansas housing that (Liberal) was a community that needed more affordable housing.”
Kiffiany Stevenson is a home-owner in the area to be rezoned. She addressed the commission with some concerns regarding the rezoning at the Feb. 8 meeting. Privacy and up-keep of the complex were two of her major concerns – concerns, she said, shared by herself and her neighbors.
“These are two-story apartments and they are overbearing over the houses that are already there – taking away any privacy that they may have,” Stevenson said. “What is the point of a privacy fence when they can see right into your back yard? I wouldn’t have any problem if they were just duplexes, those work just the same.
“Right now the apartments look great, I do think so,” she continued. “But, you get on down line and you see Cottonwood Apartments right now, they don’t look so good. Those do tend to deteriorate. There are a lot of homeowners that are in total disagreement with this.
“You can’t govern apartments, you can’t,” Stevenson explained. “They just can’t be governed – they can’t. I picked this spot to live over here, I am part of the Self-Help Program, I am in one of those houses. When I picked that spot, I picked it because of the kids there, the way it looked and the community that it was. Adding those apartments over there will tear the community down. If they were built across the street from the other ones, that would be fine. But as far as putting them at our backdoor, that is not right. It is unfair to us – we spent all of this money wanting our houses to look like homes.”
Vice Mayor Joe Denoyer made a motion to approve the final reading of Ordinance 4392 which allows for the area to be rezoned from an R-2 (two-family dwelling district) to an R-3 (multi-family dwelling district). The motion received a second from Commissioner Larry Koochel. The commission unanimously voted in approval of the ordinance.