Although Van Trust Real Estate's proposed industrial development in Independence's Little Blue Valley is on hold with the city, some city leaders still want to talk with the company about future possibilities.
“I don't know what their intention is, but we are going to be meeting with them soon, and hopefully I'll know more after that,” Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said.
A few days after a Dec. 18 town hall forum at which Van Trust representatives again heard from displeased residents, the company decided to shelve plans for an industrial development off R.D. Mize Road and Jackson Drive and Little Blue Parkway for the time being. Van Trust had been scheduled to present a revised plan to the Planning Commision on Jan. 14.
In October, the commission voted against rezoning for Van Trust's initial proposal for “Independence Commerce Center” – two speculative warehouse and distribution buildings across 36 acres. The revised plan included smaller buildings and trailer docks on just one side but also mentioned a planned third building just west of Jackson Drive on land already zoned industrial.
Despite the recent development, Weir maintains some optimism.
“I just keep going back to plans the community put together,” she said. “I don't think there's disagreement about the type of development envisioned for the valley. It comes down to what's feasible, what there's an interest in and what's going to be successful.”
“When you make a plan in 1999 and now it's 2020, a lot of things can change. We've spent a lot of time and resources in planning for the city, and I'm definitely devoted to bringing opportunity to our city.”
Twice at city public meetings and again at the town hall, citizens have raised concerns that included traffic congestion and safety; noise and air and light pollution; and setting an undesired development precedent for the area.
Weir said she believes there has still been some productive work from discussion about this development. For one, while business development of some sort has long been envisioned for the Little Blue Valley, particularly with a four-lane divided road constructed through it, the idea that citizens, city planners or developers might have of a business park or industrial park might well be different now than 20 years ago.
“Things move a lot more quickly in this day and age,” Weir said. “There's been a lot of discussion internally about how we might create different design standards.”
Tom Lesnak, president of the Independence Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Council, said he had no developments besides Van Trust putting the project on hold, but he expected to talk with the company later this week.
After the Dec. 18 town hall and before the Van Trust informed the city of putting the project on hold, Van Trust director of development Grant Harrison said the company still wanted to make another official pitch to the city, given the resources it had already devoted to the project.
“We want to see it through,” he said.
Lesnak 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 such as near 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 not matching current market demands.