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Some Independence residents concerned over planned industrial development

Independence City Hall
Posted at 12:58 PM, Oct 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 19:41:46-04

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A developer wants to rezone land north of East R.D. Mize Road between South Jackson Drive and South Little Blue Parkway in Independence for industrial warehouse space. 

VanTrust Real Estate LLC will seek approval from the Independence Planning Commission on Tuesday for a preliminary plan. 

Currently, the area is zoned as single-family residential and industrial use, but VanTrust wants to change the zoning to allow for a business park on the property. 

Independence rezoning 10/22
VanTrust Real Estate LLC wants to rezone this piece of land to allow for a business park on the property. The planned development has some neighbors concerned about noise and traffic.

The city would issue $37 million in industrial bonds for the project. VanTrust would receive a tax abatement from 2020 to 2041, but make lease payments in lieu of taxes. 

The project, called the Independence Commerce Center, would consist of two industrial warehouses on 560,000 feet of space. 

The public is invited to weigh in on the project. Several neighbors in the area have expressed concerns about the noise, semi-truck traffic and lighting issues the project could cause.  

"Oh, no — that's my initial reaction," said Diane Roche, who lives off Jackson.

Roche said no one told her about an industrial development project down the street from her house. She would have a straight-shot view of the warehouses from her back deck.

"We love our view; our neighbors love our view," Roche said. "We didn't expect this. Nobody said a word about even the potentiality of it."

VanTrust was required to alert neighboring properties 185 feet or less from the development site. Many neighbors live close and will be affected, but they live farther away than 185 feet.

"We just kind of found out about it by surprise, so we're trying to gather our forces and make our concerns known," another neighbor near the Prairie Landing neighborhood Lew Jones said.

Neighbors think the development will lower property values and negatively impact their quality of life.

They also argue that surrounding streets, like Little Blue Parkway and Jackson Drive were not built to handle large semis, but Independence Economic Development Council President Tom Lesnak maintains the streets would not need to be changed.

VanTrust officials said the site's current property value is assessed at $4,570, but the development project would raise the value to $7,663,502. 

The city says this presents an opportunity for economic growth and to attract jobs.

"We've missed out on a lot of projects and opportunities in our community to bring in jobs and capital investment," Lesnak said.

Lesnak said the city has missed out on 10 projects that could have brought in 2,400 jobs, which pay $15 to $25 an hour, since Jan. 1, 2019.

The land along R.D Mize Road originally was supposed to be for commercial and retail development, but Lesnak said the nearby housing subdivisions didn't grow as quickly as they hoped.

"If you look at the average wage in Independence, which is $23,000, if we’re bringing in jobs that are more than $13 an hour, we’re making a significant economic impact within our community," Lesnak said.

The proposed business park doesn't currently have any tenants signed up, so the project is all speculative. Lesnak said whatever it is would be considered light industrial, like manufacturing or distribution.

"The demand right now for industrial real estate is extremely high," he said. "Most buildings that get built on a speculative basis in the Kansas City area, they actually get filled before they’re completed, so we think the same situation is here."

The planning commission will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the City Council chambers at Independence City Hall.