The Independence City Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the rezoning and preliminary development plan for the 150-acre development New Town at Harmony in eastern Independence.

The commission's approval passes the mixed-use development's plans to the City Council for assessment during its June 23 meeting.

Within those two weeks, New Town's organizers have also pledged to meet with homeowners who appeared have voiced opposition to the project, citing concerns about adverse effects to property value and increased traffic along Truman and Fisher roads.

The agreement for further dialogue ended up being the linchpin to the project's recommendation, and the final piece necessary to secure affirmatives from City Council members. The intense debate about the development from residents has ranged from concerned to irate.

“I know a lot of you folks are disappointed that some of us will be voting the way we will,” Commission Member Eric Ashbaugh said before issuing a motion to recommend the plan.

“Very,” said Bryan Haupt, a Truman Road resident who will live near New Town when it becomes a reality.

The commission's recommendation comes with requirements to improve Truman Road and portions of Fisher Road. The project, which includes plans for both residential and commercial development, sits at the northwest corner of that intersection.

The testimony from the residents followed vocal support from the Independence Chamber of Commerce as well as the Independence Economic Development Council.

“Congratulations are really in order to us all for landing this project,” said Franklin Kimbrough, CEO of the Independence Chamber of Commerce.

“This is the kind of stuff that cities actively compete for, all the kinds of things that attract people and make people want to stay in the community,” he added, citing the developer's interest in a pedestrian- and social-oriented design.

Tom Lesnak, president of the Independence EDC, echoed Kimbrough’s thoughts, adding businesses are looking for communities planning their growth in a forward looking manner. He added their employees are also going to look for attractive, livable communities, using Cerner's new campus at the site of the former Bannister Mall as an example.

“We want those people to live in Independence and spend their dollars here,” he said.

Neighbors conceded that it was a good idea, but said the rural setting they currently live in would be changed dramatically with the addition of the nearly 900 homes that New Town at Harmony could eventually hold.

The developers countered, pointing out theirs is a small piece of a plan to develop the entire area.

In other business, the Commission also recommended approval of plans submitted by Christine Pauley to operate a day care home business.

The board also advanced plans by Mark Thomason to construct an office for his commercial truck supply company at the corner of U.S. 40 and East 35th Terrace.