• Over residents' objections, Independence council OKs rezoning on Sterling

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  • One Independence City Council member Tuesday night said she understood both sides on whether a southwestern Independence property should be converted into rental duplex housing.
    But ultimately, District 4 Council Member Eileen Weir voted against the rezoning case, siding with several of her constituents who believe the property at 3010 S. Sterling Ave. should remain single-family residential.
    Last week, three property owners within 185 feet of 3010 S. Sterling Ave. – Reva D. Wilson; Ralph and Hazel Shineman; and Renee E. Snead – filed a valid protest petition with the city against the application to rezone the property from single-family residential/planned unit development to two-family residential/planned unit development.
    Those owners met the 30 percent required by Missouri statute and City Code to file a protest petition. Because of the valid protest petition, the ordinance required at least five council votes in favor to pass.
    The Planning Commission voted Jan. 15 to recommend the case for approval to the City Council. Council members voted 6-1, with Weir as the lone opposing vote.
    Prior to voting, Weir said she saw her fellow council members’ votes as making one of two choices: Votes in favor of the rezoning would allow for a vacant structure to become rental housing, while votes against it would uphold what some neighbors said they want.
    “They’re aware that the building has been unoccupied,” she said, “but clearly, they have spoken and said that they would rather see that remain a single-family home than to allow multiple family rentals in that area.”
    According to testimony provided at the Jan. 15 Planning Commission meeting, prior to purchasing the property, Steve McBee with McBee Custom Homes LLC spoke with city staff and learned that a 5- or 6-plex would not be possible but that a 4-plex would be allowed, if rezoning went through.
    McBee purchased the property with intentions of developing a 4-plex, inheriting work done by the previous owner. But when McBee went to start construction about a year ago, he learned that the previous owner hadn’t obtained any building permits and that the zoning was incorrect for a four-plex.
    At the Jan. 15 Planning Commission meeting, commission members heard more than an hour of testimony from opposing neighbors, in addition to asking their own questions of the applicant and city staff.
    Ultimately, the commission voted to recommend two-family residential instead of the applicant’s requested moderate-density residential, saying the smaller of the two zoning classifications was more compatible with the neighboring single-family residential zoning.
    The adjacent development to 3010 S. Sterling Ave. also includes 4-plex townhouses.
    According to city staff, the property hasn’t been used as a single-family home for several decades. In the late 1990s, the structure was used as an office for the Community of Christ.
    Plans had once existed to convert the building into a clubhouse for the nearby Sterling Village development, but those plans never came to fruition, and the building has remained vacant for about 10 years.
    Page 2 of 2 - District 1 Council Member Marcie Gragg drew on her experience as a former Planning Commission chairwoman while voting in favor of the rezoning.
    “Having served for almost 10 years on the Planning Commission, I know there were a number of times when we would get legal protests from neighbors,” Gragg said. “I always take those very seriously, but there are times when what the neighbors want is not necessarily feasible for the property. I don’t think it’s feasible to suggest that this should go back to a single-family house.”
    At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Weir told her fellow council members that while she voted against the case, she supported their decision to vote in favor of the rezoning.
    “I think that there are circumstances that are extenuating here that probably don’t make it very realistic for that to be a single-family dwelling,” Weir said. “It hasn’t been successfully marketed that way, but ultimately, for myself personally, I need to listen to my constituents and uphold what they tell me that they want for me to do as their representative.
    “But, I’m hopeful that this will be a positive addition to the neighborhood as a duplex and that it will be a revenue generator for the owner of that property who has invested a considerable amount money in trying to fix a problem that he didn’t create.”

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