Bitter dispute over religious apartments on Troost continues


A mediation effort did not resolve one of the city’s harshest recent development battles, a proposal to put religious housing on five acres at 53rd and Troost, the city council heard yesterday.

That mediation requested by the council failed, and the council on Thursday set a Nov. 12 date to finally vote on the project.

“It looks like both parties are in their corners and it’s up to us to decide,” Mayor Sly James told the city council.

The plan calls for the demolition of the former St. Francis Xavier school to build 85 apartments in a four-story building, with the St. Francis Xavier church to remain on the northern edge of the site, minus some of its parking.

The City Plan Commission, an advisory body, rejected the project three times, citing massive opposition from neighbors and parishioners.

The council planning and zoning committee advanced it to the full council anyway, which delayed it to allow mediation with retired judge John R. O’Malley. During the mediation period, nine new council members took office and responsibility for a decision in the controversial matter.

O’Malley issued his report this week and spoke to the council.

“The acute paralysis that has afflicted this construction project is about to become chronic,” he wrote. “It appears the city council will have to determine its cure.”

Mediation did result in the parish determining it could not oppose action by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, he said, which owns the former school and for years has fought for the project.

But neighbors continue to oppose the 220-bed project as too dense for the area, O’Malley told the council, and they cite major parking concerns.

The neighbors proposed a development with only 67 beds.

“It would have been a size seven shoe instead of a size 10,” neighbor Ken Spare told the city council.

He also said the school closed in 2009 could be renovated and reused as a school instead of demolished, but the diocese contends both neighborhood options are not financially feasible.


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