Van Trust Real Estate's revised industrial development proposal still doesn't appease many area residents, but it will still go before the Independence Planning Commission next month.
“This type of project should never be close to homes,” Shelly Lee, a nearby resident and a realtor, said a forum in Independence Wednesday evening.
Several people acknowledged Van Trust’s solid plan but wondered why it couldn’t build somewhere else in the Little Blue Valley, instead of next to their backyard or immediate sight line.
“Nobody's going to fight you if you put it somewhere else,” Quinton McDannald said, later asking, “What would you want to go somewhere else?”
For a third time Wednesday evening, representatives from Van Trust heard plenty of concerns from residents about the development in the Little Blue Valley that would ultimately would cover 72 acres along Jackson Drive off R.D. Mize Road and west of Little Blue Parkway.
The forum at Metropolitan Community College-Blue River drew enough interest – about 200 people – that fire marshall regulations convinced a couple dozen people to leave and instead possibly attend the Jan. 14 Planning Commission meeting.
In October, the commission voted down Van Trust's rezoning proposal for two speculative warehouse and distribution buildings across 36 acres, amid strong consternation from area residents, and some city leaders encouraged the company to revise plans and go back to the commission.
The project Van Trust first showed for rezoning in October only had the two buildings between Jackson and Little Blue and did not include the building to the west of Jackson, as it would be on land already zoned industrial.
At this point, Grant Harrison of Van Trust said, there's not much more the company could tweak, and having spent enough time and expense on it.
“We want to see it through” and make another official pitch to the city, he said.
The City Council has already approved industrial bonds and a tax abatement plan contingent on rezoning.
Harrison explained how Van Trust shrunk the size of the square footage of the three buildings from more than 961,000 square feet to 782,500 and dropped the number of docks for tractor trailers from 242 to 128, moving all the docks to single sides of a building. That would allow for more buffer and landscape areas and improved drainage through stormwater retention. The building west of Jackson could go up first, Harrison said, as it would on land where dirty would be moved to the other side.
As they did before, citizen concerns ranged from traffic congestion and safety, noise and air and light pollution and setting an undesired precedent for the area.
Mike McMurray, among many who expressed traffic congestion concern, including with regard to nearby businesses on Little Blue Parkway, also questioned where the tractor trailers would refuel, as the next-closest possibility would be Oak Grove. McMurray worries such a development would spur Little Blue Parkway to resemble crowded Front Street in Kansas City's East Bottoms.
“I don't know where they would fuel,” said Rich Mueller of Van Trust, adding that it's not part of the project.
Randall Pratt, who owns land across Little Blue Parkway from the proposed development, said the big problem is the city doesn't have firm guidelines on what a business park should look like, and different guidelines would lead to a less intrusive development.
Tom Lesnak, president of the Independence Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Council, said in October that he and city officials have tried over the years to get firm development plans for elsewhere in the Little Blue Valley. But other sites like at Lake City, near the Blue Valley Power Plant and even directly across Little Blue Parkway have been considered too far from Interstate 70, too costly because of infrastructure needs, or matching current market demands.