North Independence plan gets a no

By Mike Genet

Like last year, a proposed residential development for a north-side Independence neighborhood did not make it through City Hall. 

The City Council last week unanimously voted against the preliminary development plan for a 2.5-acre site in the Kentucky Hills neighborhood, just west of Liberty Street near Mill Creek Elementary. Isosceles Properties hoped to construct 11 duplex buildings on the site, which has a long-vacant building in the middle that served as a community center, church and preschool over the years, next to where a swimming pool has long been filled in.

City staff had recommended not approving the plan, and the Planning Commission voted unanimously against it in September, saying it would not fit the physical character of the neighborhood, which is mostly single-family homes. They also shared some concerns also voiced by neighbors, who echoed worries expressed last year – potential traffic and street parking issues and stressed stormwater and sewer systems.

Residents also worried about the loss of green space, where some of the neighborhood children play.

Neighborhood resident Angela Pratt said she thought the development would be “devastating” to the area, with storm drain overruns and traffic problems. 

“Just because these units have garages doesn’t mean this development won’t add to the traffic problem,” Pratt said. “We need the green space for the children in the neighborhood.

“We are asking not to be overloaded in an already crowded space.”

As it is now, the lot isn’t regularly kept up, Pratt said.

“Many in the neighborhood pitch in to mow it,” she said.

One citizen filed a legal protest against the plan, and local Jana Evans said neighbors gathered about 300 signatures on an informal petition against the development.

Ryan Radar of Isosceles Properties, who owns the property, proposed a development last year with 38 units among a series of structures. The Planning Commission also voted against it, and the project was withdrawn before it reached the city. He said he planned to market the 22 units to seniors but wouldn’t make an exclusive covenant in order to avoid accusations of discrimination. 

Independence Schools Superintendent Dale Herl said he objected to the development because the possibility of several more young families in the neighborhood could overload Mill Creek. Planning Commissioner Billie Preston said he couldn’t approve the project because it lacked a covenant for selling to seniors and didn’t appear to fit the existing neighborhood.

John Roe, an attorney representing Isosceles, told the City Council the project met current zoning and the city’s comprehensive plan, which calls for a diversity of housing options in an area, and that city staff should have evaluated the project based on that. Single-family housing isn’t permitted with current zoning, which is high-density residential/planned unit development

“My client wants to take this under-utilized piece of property and make it a productive piece,” Roe said. “This property was carved out of the neighborhood; the city created this subdivision. This application is for a permitted use and less than one-third of the possible density.”

When the Kentucky Hills neighborhood was first developed in the 1950s and 1960s, it had a homeowners association, but that organization never owned the land in question, and the HOA eventually dissolved. Since Isosceles shelved its first development plan for the lot last year, residents had reformed an HOA for the area.