The Independence City Council is scheduled to decide Tuesday on a rezoning application that would allow for an affordable senior housing project to be constructed at 1703 E. 23rd Street, just west of the recently closed Ryan’s Steakhouse.
Council Member Curt Dougherty is among those pushing for the project by MACO Development Co., which would cover 7.51 acres over two plats of undeveloped land and would consist of 54 total units of housing. But the project is opposed by the city’s Planning Commission, which twice has voted 5-0 against it, and protest petitions containing signatures from six neighboring residences were filed with the city, making a 2/3 majority approval necessary for the council to pass the ordinance.
MACO is asking for the land to be rezoned from R-6 (single-family residential) and R-12 (two-family residential) to R-18/PUD (moderate-density residential/planned unit development). The proposed project, tentatively named “Oakbrook Gardens,” would be restricted to rental for low-income seniors (age 55 and older). MACO plans to submit an application to the Missouri Housing Development Commission for financing and tax credits.
The project would consist of three buildings with eight units each and five buildings with six units each, along with a 1,500-square-foot community building at the entrance. The entrance/exit would be in line with S. Woodbury Street on the other side of 23rd Street. The current zoning for the property allows for up to 33 units of single-family or two-family buildings.
When the proposal was introduced last Monday, Dougherty confirmed with Community Development Director Tom Scannell his belief that the overall population density wouldn’t be drastically different with senior housing compared to the current zoning potential, and that families with children would be generating at least as much, if not more, traffic.
Dougherty also noted the development’s proximity to grocery and pharmacy outlets and mentioned MACO’s successful Grandview Estates senior housing project in his district, on East Salisbury Road west of Missouri 291.
But Lori Harp, a member of the Planning Commission, said comparing that project to the proposed Oakbrook Gardens is an apples vs. oranges comparison – that the location of Oakbrook Gardens is not good for what already is a high-traffic area, especially with just one entrance/exit and it being near a stoplight.
“Traffic flow is different, the configuration is different – (Grandview Estates) is on a horseshoe,” Harp said.
“I’m strictly looking at this development on its own merits,” she said. “Our concerns are not with the developer. There’s an impression that we’re not open to his developer or this type of development. That’s not true.”
Fellow commission member Patrick Campbell said he is concerned about the density.
“Taking it up to 54 is way too much for that particular area, especially the way the lot lies,” he said. “It’s not that good a location for what they’re wanting to do. They produced a traffic study that said it would be fine, but I still have some reservations.”
Another reservation Campbell has is rezoning for a project that hasn’t secured funding, then being stuck with the rezone if the project falls through.
“They’re a good developer, but they haven’t received their monies yet, and they won’t know until December,” he said. “It’s great when they get it, and they can put a cap on rents for senior citizens.”
Billy Fields and her husband reside at 1509 E. 23rd, with a long driveway that passes by Ryan’s. Their property is adjacent to the east side of 1703. Fields echoed Harp’s concern about traffic.
“I fear for people going out onto the highway,” she said. “It’s a dangerous situation, going onto a four-lane highway. I just feel like it’s accidents waiting to happen. I’m 85 years old; I lived in this neighborhood 85 years and seen lots of changes.”
Fields said she also believes such a development would devalue her property and that Grandview Estates isn’t a fair comparison because it’s isn’t tucked into a neighborhood like Oakbrook Gardens would be.
Her property value concern is greatly shared by Danny Sullins at 1305 S. Kings Highway on the west side of the proposed development. Sullins said he also is worried about traffic and potential drainage issues and said the city already has enough housing developments going up and vacant buildings as it is.
“It’s a lot of traffic; that by itself is a pain in the butt,” he said. “Traffic is a bad issue, but it’s not the total issue. It’s going to benefit anybody that lives around here. The only thing it will benefit is the city of Independence’s taxes.”
Two places down from the Sullins’ residence, Edna Tucker and her husband have lived in their house for more than 50 years, and the area adjacent to her yard has remained open. Simply put, “I prefer to keep it that way,” she said.
The land in question is in Council Member Scott Roberson’s district, and he shares the traffic-flow concern.
“The way it’s designed, it’s high-risk for traffic,” Roberson said, adding that he doesn’t know how other council members will vote. “I’m not in favor it, and the developer knows it. The developer’s fine, and I have nothing against senior housing. The developer’s under the gun because he’s got to have the application in for funds.”