By Mike Genet

After a more than year-long hiatus, the Menards project at the northeast corner Interstate 70 and Little Blue Parkway appears to be on track – even if the home improvement is unwilling to confirm a future store at that location.

The Independence City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday to change the zoning classification at that 53-acre tract of land from residential agricultural and office residential to business park-planned unit development – a tract referred to as the Menard Center that would allow for future business to join the home improvement store on the site.

The Planning Commission had approved the rezoning back in October 2012, and the ordinance received its first reading at the Council’s Dec. 3, 2012, meeting, with the second reading postponed indefinitely. The Council voted during last week’s adjourned meeting to add the ordinance to Tuesday’s meeting, where it passed unanimously without discussion.

Originally, construction would have started in the spring of 2013, with the store opening in the coming months, but the company shelved expansion at the time, saying in an email at the time “... we are a family-owned business, and with the Obama administration scaring the dickens out of all small businesses in the USA at present, we have decided not to risk expansion until things are more settled.”

The company itself is saying little now.

It did not answer several questions The Examiner put to it Tuesday – about the store’s size, the number of employees, other retailers at the site – but instead issued a one-line response in an email: “We hope to build a store in Independence, MO some day but no final decisions have been made.”

Tyler Edwards, a real estate representative for Menards, was present at Tuesday’s meeting, and he acknowledged afterward that his presence indicated movement on the project. But he referred any further questions to the company spokesperson.

City Manager Robert Heacock said he couldn’t speak for Menards, but he appeared confident in the project’s progress.

“I think it will be a positive development and a significant employer,” he said after the meeting. “(The decision to shelve the project) was a corporate decision, but I’m glad to see they’re interested in moving forward on the site.”

The Menard Center development would use the Jackson Drive extension across Little Blue Parkway that is in the works for a future QuikTrip on an adjacent parcel.

Examiner reporter Jeff Fox contributed to his report