• Englewood arts district moves forward

  • The Independence Planning Commission Tuesday night amended the city’s Unified Development Ordinance that would create a new special purpose district known as an arts district. City staff have been meeting with several Englewood business and property owners who have worked for years to establish an Englewood arts district.

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  • The creation of an Englewood arts district is one step closer to fruition.
    The Independence Planning Commission Tuesday night approved an amendment to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance that would, among other changes, create a new special purpose district known as an arts district. The amendment takes place after months of city staff meeting with several Englewood business and property owners who have worked for years to establish an Englewood arts district.
    Despite their support for the creation of an arts district, several Englewood business owners Tuesday night questioned the city’s use of a special purpose zoning district instead of creating an overlay arts district. According to Tom Scannell, Community Development Department assistant director and planning manager, little difference exists between the two types of classification.
    With an overlay district, Scannell said, a district retains its existing base zoning classification plus the desired district – for example, commercial zoning-arts district. He said the rezoning notification process for overlay and special purpose zoning districts is the same.
    Monte Short, who owns business property in Englewood and holds office in the Englewood Business Association, was among those concerned about the creation of a special purpose zoning district versus an overlay district plan.
    “It really gives Englewood a vision of what it can be,” Short said of the creation of an arts district. “The big difference between those two is that the zoning would be open for anybody in the future to simply just ask for an arts zoning. I don’t know if this document that was written fits in really well with the whole city.”
    After hearing feedback from city staff members, Planning Commission members agreed that there seems to be little – if any – difference in the two designations.
    “I think, at the end of the day, you’ll end up at the same place,” commission vice chairman Pat Campbell said.
    In March 2009, the Independence Council for Economic Development commissioned the study for the feasibility of an arts district in Englewood, with the city of Independence, the Englewood Business Association and the Truman Heartland Community Foundation providing a total of $25,500 for the study. Instead of the study resulting in a straightforward “yes” or “no” answer, AMS Planning & Research Corp. concluded that four categories exist in which subsequent actions would results in creation of Englewood arts district – arts and culture; the built environment; coordination and promotion; and business development. More than a half dozen art galleries are now open in Englewood, and the business district has established the monthly Third Friday Art Walk.
    Pending the Independence City Council’s final approval, city staff would approach property owners in Englewood regarding who was interested in rezoning for conformity with the special purpose district. The purpose paragraph of the arts district section states such a district – whether established in Englewood or elsewhere in the city of Independence – intends to “preserve and enhance the area as a center for a variety of retail, business services, housing and office uses and to promote a strong pedestrian character and scale throughout the district through the use of consistent sidewalks, landscaping and business signage.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “Utilizing the existing scale of structures, new structures and buildings will provide the opportunity to create a focus for revitalization and promotion of the cultural and artistic environment,” the arts district purpose paragraph states.
    Commission member Lori Harp questioned if other established arts districts across the United States have provided incentives or reasons for business owners to participate in such a designation.
    “I kind of feel like we’ve got the choir here (Tuesday),” Harp said of business owners who spoke in support of a special arts district designation. “These folks are the ones who want it, but I’m just guessing there are a few over there who don’t. What makes those people want to be a part of this, and is there a way to do that?”
    Campbell agreed on the essential need of an incentive for Englewood businesses participation in the arts district.
    “You are going to have to have some type of an incentive to make some of these people want to change the facade or make it conform,” Campbell said. “I think that’s the only way, short of you all wanting to buy it yourselves, unfortunately.”
    The amendment approved Tuesday, which included five provisions other than the arts district, marks the fifth amendment since the UDO was adopted in July 2009 as the city’s effort to entice higher quality development in Independence.
    “We can always revisit this,” commission member Karen DeLuccie said. “If we find out that we really should have done something different, we can always revisit it.”

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