Independence is at a crossroads. The community needs to have an earnest conversation about the extent and the nature of the development it wants.


Three months after being put “on hold,” the Van Trust warehouse building project in the Little Blue Valley by all appearances is done. It would have come at a cost but would have meant paychecks and growth. It also would have meant added truck traffic and a valley that’s a little less pristine. That is the nature of development.


The neighbors were having none of that, and it looked like a tough sell with the City Council, so the company threw in its cards and folded.


Now what? Will any project – anything at all – be good enough?


This is the kind of project the city and local development community have been building toward for years. The city, like others, has come to realize that restaurants, retail and health care – all subsidized by the taxpayers in recent decades – simply will not create a substantial number of the good-paying jobs a community needs for solid and sustained growth.


Does the valley have advantages? Sure – but so do any number of other places in the metro area and beyond. It has interstate access, but there's nothing particularly compelling about the valley, so officials are going to have to sell it hard.


The valley has been open for business for many years now, but we’re still waiting for development to take off. For a patient company such as Van Trust to come along, work with the community, lay out a plan, alter its plan in response to complaints and still get nowhere is not sending a good signal to others who might be interested. As has been pointed out, developers have long memories.


These are the realities:


One: The “I don’t oppose it – I just want it somewhere else” argument is hogwash. Private capital goes where it chooses. Cities can only affect that at the margins. Telling a developer to just find a spot a couple miles up the road is the same as telling that developer to go away.


Two: Perfect projects – great paychecks, no pollution, no traffic, no noise, not the loss of a single tree or blade of grass – are so rare as to be unrealistic. Everything has a cost and benefit. The issue is, what does the community find acceptable and beneficial?


Independence doesn’t seem to know what its answer to that is.