Independence residents can learn more about a property tax issue for Police Department services before the City Council potentially places it on the April ballot.

Independence residents can learn more about a property tax issue for Police Department services before the City Council potentially places it on the April ballot.

At-Large Council Member Jim Schultz Monday night asked that the city staff make a presentation on the potential property tax increase at the Dec. 5 council meeting, allowing council members an additional week to have their questions answered, Schultz said.

The second reading and council vote on the ordinance will now take place prior to the study session on Dec. 12.

Schultz’s request took place following the first reading of an ordinance that would ask voters to consider a property tax increase to fund additional police officers and related equipment.

According to the city, a levy increase of 0.3629 would result in a $5.75 per month impact on property owners whose home has a market value of $100,000. About $3.8 million is needed annually for 42 additional police personnel and associated equipment that would be phased in over three years, according to figures presented to the City Council in October 2010.

It’s been decades since a city-related property tax increase has taken place in Independence. Voters last took to the polls on the police funding issue in August 2009 rejecting a three-eighth cent sales tax that would have funded additional police personnel, equipment, facilities and technology.



WESTSIDE REZONING APPROVED

The issue drew a heated discussion from the Planning Commission in late October, and commission members at that time had no recommendation for the City Council.

But the City Council approved a rezoning case unanimously Monday night – and without discussion.

Rental properties at 11710, 11712, 11714 and 11716 E. Winner Road, as well as 1715 S. Scott Ave., were reverted to two-family residential and high-density residential zonings, just as they had been for years until late 2009.

In January 2010, council members voted unanimously to rezone several western Independence neighborhoods, including the five properties that the Planning Commission had recommended to exclude. District 1 Council Member Marcie Gragg moved to re-enter the properties into the overall rezoning. Gragg, who represents that area, made a case for the city’s efforts to stabilize neighborhoods in the older parts of town and to restore single-family residential.

A month later, rental property owner Conrad Fisher sued the city, but in November 2010, after a series of continuations in the case, Fisher filed a notice of dismissal without prejudice.

In October, two Planning Commission members voted for the case, two voted against the case, one abstained her vote and one member was absent. That left the commission – a recommending body to the City Council – without a recommendation.



CHANGES TO CITY CODE APPROVED

The City Council Monday also approved a handful of changes to the Unified Development Ordinance portion of the City Code, including a measure that is aiming to clean up signs along rights of way.

The city may now apply enforcement of the removal of illegal signs in the right of way or on public property. The enforcement may be applied to the person or business placing the sign, the business or organization advertised on the sign or the owner of the property or vehicle on which the sign is placed.

Previously, the City Code only allowed enforcement through catching the person in the act of placing the signs. Schultz had brought the issue to staff’s attention after learning of a similar change in Overland Park, Kan.

“That’s really critical – we’ve seen a proliferation of signage on electric poles and on the right-of-way in general,” City Manager Robert Heacock said. “The feedback we’ve received from the public is that those create quite an eyesore. ... They’re everywhere, and we have well-intentioned volunteers, but what we’ve lacked was a good enforcement mechanism.”