It’s final: After almost a year of controversy, the Leawood City Council has approved zoning for the former post office at 3500 W. 95th St., a site that had been proposed for a barbecue restaurant called the Slab-N-Pickle.
The eight-member council voted unanimously for a new zoning designation that would allow such things as specialty food stores, office space or camera shops at the post office near the Ranch Mart shops, but no restaurants or bars of any kind.
“After a yearlong battle, we are really pleased that an agreement has been reached,” said neighbor Wayne Starr. “We support Ranch Mart North and we want to see it prosper.”
Ranch Mart and the neighbors negotiated the details of a new “planned neighborhood commercial retail-2” zone that allows many light retail businesses, plus some medical outpatient, delivery services and school use. However the SD-NCR2 zone forbids packaged liquor sales, laundromats, taverns and convenience stores, to name a few.
The newly created zone is a victory for neighbors of the post office, who had opposed the BBQ restaurant near their homes because of possible smell, noise, parking and other issues. Some neighbors were as close as 50 feet to the site and worried that the noise from evening diners and delivery trucks would disrupt their lives.
Slab-N-Pickle managing partner Scott O’Meara had offered concessions and reassurances about noise and odor prevention, but residents filed a protest petition against the restaurant with the city. The neighbors also filed a lawsuit asking the court to stop progress on the development if the city had gone ahead with the original proposal.
That lawsuit will be withdrawn, said Seth Berry, spokesman for the Ranchmart Neighbors group opposed to the restaurant.
O’Meara dropped plans to use that site last summer. But the city, neighbors and the shopping center’s owner, Ranch Mart North LLC, continued to work on the zoning because of confusion about what uses were allowed under the city zoning ordinances.
The shopping center was built 50 to 60 years ago, when city record keeping was different, said Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn. When O’Meara approached the city with his restaurant idea, the city could not find documentation of what the exact zoning had been and what uses were permitted.
At the meeting Monday, Berry handed out results of his own research into past uses allowed at the site and asked that it be entered into the city record.
The handout, which included correspondence from landowner Bob Regnier and some old city ordinances, shows that commercial use for the site has never been allowed, Berry said. The council accepted it into the record without commenting on its accuracy.
Berry said later that although he trusts the current agreement, there’s no telling what could happen years from now. “Ten to 20 years in the future, we don’t want to fight the same battle,” he said.