Council delays vote on Catholic housing plan

Mayor Sly James managed debate on the controversial housing project proposed by the Catholic Diocese.

Mayor Sly James managed debate on the controversial housing project proposed by the Catholic Diocese.

The city council today delayed for a month a controversial proposal for religious housing on Troost Avenue, putting it in the hands of the next council.

In its final meeting, the council passed a resolution that also ordered both sides to meet with an impartial mediator and try to work out an agreement.

On Aug. 20, the matter can come back before a city council with nine new members.

The dispute over the project at 53rd Street and Troost Avenue is the most bitter in more than a decade, council members said.

For three years the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has pushed the project opposed by neighborhood leaders and parishioners of St. Francis Xavier Parish.

Councilman Ed Ford said, “It pains me as a Kansas Citian to see this level of hatred shown by the parishioners to the church and the church to the parishioners.”

The city plan commission, an advisory body, cited massive opposition in rejecting the project three times.

The plan calls for demolition of the former St. Francis Xavier school to build 85 apartments, with the church remaining on the northern edge of the five-acre site.

Opponents had wanted to reuse the school and objected to density, parking and other development details.

Cindy Circo, mayor pro tem, today stood with Fourth District Council Member Jan Marcason firmly against the project.

“This will only be something that continues to tear at the fabric of the community,” Circo said.

Councilman John Sharp said he hoped some compromise could be achieved with a neutral party working with some of the most progressive neighborhoods in the city.

If the project is denied, lawyers for the diocese have said they will sue the city and win.

Councilman Jim Glover said of the delay, “Even if it comes out with no more changes, we will have both parties in the room having to listen to each other and a third impartial person reporting to the council.”

Councilman Scott Wagner, who will remain on the new council, said a negotiated agreement would be good because who knows what the new council will do.

The impartial mediator is critical, he said. “This needs to be done by someone with no skin in the game because the emotions are high.”

One Comment

  1. Greg Patterson says:

    As a property owner in the University District in this part of Troost, we appreciate the wise decision of this Mayor and City Council to delay this ill-conceived project. We all have worked long and hard to revitalize this area. Integral to that goal are the plans of local residents and property owners as well as the plans of the 2 universities and the Troost Corridor Plan, the latter adopted by the City roughly 10 years ago. Last year the City adopted the Rockhurst University Master Plan after months of community work. Priority to that the neighbors worked with UMKC to adopt a master plan that includes property on the westside of Troost north and south of this site.

    These 3 planning processes exhibit how to work together.

    The “Bishop Finn housing plan” of the Diocese is an example of how not to do community-based planning. Perhaps new leadership in the Diocese will be more enlightened.

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