The Independence Planning Commission voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approve the rezoning of neighborhoods north of East Winner Road, south of East 17th Street, west of South Fuller Avenue and east of South Sterling Avenue from multi-family residential uses to single-family residential. (Commission members Lyn Westfall and Pat Campbell were opposed.)

William McLeod says he knows his neighborhood like the back of his hand.

He’s walked door to door, passing out hundreds of fliers to educate residents about the types of zonings – single-family and multi-family – that affect western Independence.

A lifelong Independence resident, McLeod moved to his residence near East Winner Road 15 years ago and purchased a home built in 1895. With “alarming turnover rates” at Proctor Elementary School, McLeod said “small, easy, little rental homes” are scary for the entire community.  

“This community is my life,” said McLeod, who has developed a large poster with different color coding for the various zonings near his home. “It’s just alarming how many multi-family (properties) are popping up in the area. It’s time to stand up and say, ‘Enough’s enough. Let’s right a wrong that was done years ago.’”

The Independence Planning Commission voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approve the rezoning of neighborhoods north of East Winner Road, south of East 17th Street, west of South Fuller Avenue and east of South Sterling Avenue from multi-family residential uses to single-family residential. (Commission members Lyn Westfall and Pat Campbell were opposed.)

However, the case excluded rental properties at 11710, 11712, 11714 and 11716 E. Winner Road and at 1715 S. Scott Ave. after property owners Conrad Fisher and Billy Caudill expressed concerns on how the down zoning would affect their rental properties that have existed as such for years.

With the city of Independence as the case’s applicant, the rezoning is part of an ongoing effort to stabilize neighborhoods where single-family homes have been converted into multiple units. Commission member Karen DeLuccie said she liked the overall project and its intended effect on the neighborhood.

“Balanced against that is a person’s right to own a property as it was purchased,” DeLuccie said, speaking in favor of the Fisher and Caudill properties and their exclusion.

Campbell, in opposition, said commissioners should look at the neighborhood as a whole and what the city is trying to accomplish with incentives like the Fairmount-Carlisle 353 residential tax abatement program.

“I think you need to look at the future,” he said. “Just because they were built that way doesn’t mean they have to be kept that way.”

District 1 City Council Member Marcie Gragg, who served on the planning commission for nine years, said she approached the city’s Community Development Department staff about a year ago for help in stabilizing western Independence neighborhoods.

“It encourages the restoration of single-family homes to single-family use. It helps to prevent the cannibalization of beautiful single-family homes into multi-family use,” said Gragg, whose district includes the neighborhood discussed Tuesday night. “This is one long-range effort to restore neighborhoods. I use the example that if a tornado were to wipe off part of the street, what should the neighborhood look like?”