More than three years after the Independence City Council put a cap on the number of tobacco/convenience stores in the city, the council voted to cut the number in half over time.

The council on Monday approved a change to what's known as the Unified Development Ordinance that will eventually reduce the number of tobacco/convenience stores allowed from 14 to seven. Convenience stores with fuel sales and grocery stores that sell tobacco products are not affected.

When the council previously set a limit in March 2014, the number of stores was based on one per 8,000 residents. Independence's latest census population is barely higher than that time – 116,882 now – and Monday's amendment changes the population ratio from 8,000 to 15,000.

Existing tobacco stores can continue to operate, including if the business (and license) is sold. For a new store to open, the city would have to be down to six in operation.

When the council set the previous tobacco store limit in 2014, it was done in part to address illegal activity associated several such businesses, including sales of synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia. In addition to trying to curtail crime, the new phased-in cap is public health follow-up to the Tobacco 21 ordinance the council passed almost two years ago.

Independence data from Monitoring the Future, a government-sponsored survey, indicated that while cigarette smoking has decreased among youth – both nationally and locally – use of other tobacco products including e-cigarettes has increased, and about 35 percent of students believed that e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes.

A tobacco/convenience store can lose its license with one or more of the following violations: cease operations for the six months; allow the business license to lapse; have no maintained store use for six months; apply for a demolition permit; remove equipment and furnishing without similar replacements within sixth months; being accused of illegal activity or failing to comply with local, state or federal law; not having water and/or electrical service for six straight months.

 

Solar farm expansion

 

The council approved rezoning of 7-plus acres of land at 24301 E. Bundschu Road to expand the adjacent community solar farm.

MC Power, which constructed the 3.1-megawatt solar farm that began operating earlier this year and sells the power to Independence Power & Light, plans to construct solar panels for 0.7 megawatts on the new tract of land. The land containing the current solar farm also has room for expansion.

Community response to the solar farm has been strong enough all 3.1 megawatts were purchased and the council gave the go-ahead for IPL and MC Power to pursue expansion plans.