Shortly after the Derby school district sold the Pleasantview Elementary building in 2020, plans began to form for the property’s transformation. Upon purchase, developer Tom Schmeidler announced his intention to turn the former school site into a senior housing development.
Now, those efforts are coming to fruition, as the Derby Planning Commission held a public hearing Sept. 16 to review the preliminary residential planned unit development at the former Pleasantview site (1101 N. Georgie Ave.), which it ultimately approved.
Assistant City Planner Everett Haynes highlighted the preliminary nature of the review as part of the staff report, noting the city council will have the ultimate authority in approving or denying the PUD request during final review.
The preliminary PUD application – a hybrid of a zone change request and site plan review – presented would include the construction of six apartment buildings (to include 20 apartments total) and six duplexes at 1101 N. Georgie. A portion of the school building – including the gym, for recreational use by residents – would remain to be utilized in the development. Units would be constructed using similar aesthetics to existing homes in the neighborhood.
Homeowners’ main concerns addressed in the public hearing regarded maintenance of the property, pointing out current issues and questioning if that would persist after the site is developed.
“If he’s not going to maintain the property the last two years, is he going to be a good steward of that property later? I have a concern and an issue there,” said nearby homeowner Michael Guinn. “They haven’t shown to be a good steward of the property to this point.”
“In a situation like this, you have to maintain them well otherwise you’re not going to be able to lease them out,” said Kirk Miller, representing the developer at the public hearing.
Miller listed a number of similar developments in Mulvane and Park City for concerned residents to check out before the PUD’s final review.
Other homeowners questioned what the development might do to home values and the character of the neighborhood – which also came up during the findings of fact.
Discussing the suitability of the subject property, staff reported that the proposed residential use is consistent with the character of the neighborhood’s R-1 residential district. Questioned on what the odds were of the site being developed as single family homes (like a traditional R-1), Haynes pointed out this is the first application to make it as far as the planning commission for a preliminary review. City Planner Scott Knebel also noted he fielded a lot of calls about development of the site with no follow-up.
Commissioners were in agreement with the proposed intent of the PUD fitting in the R-1 district.
Additionally, the PUD would bring more senior housing to the community, which Haynes stated is in demand with limited availability in Derby. Also, the PUD request would fall in line with the goals of the city’s Vision Derby 2040 comprehensive plan.
“The proposed development will help satisfy the third goal by providing options for seniors,” Haynes said.
Concerns regarding a split of the property in future sales were brought up by commissioners, but Knebel said the PUD would have to go back through the approval process if that were to happen.
Directly addressing some of the concerns brought up by homeowners during the public hearing, a proposed development schedule and photos of existing projects were suggested to be requested for the record, which was approved as part of the preliminary PUD.
“We always have your best interest in mind,” said commission chair Mitch Adams.
No date has been set yet for the final hearing on the PUD request.