By Paul Thompson
July 21, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Independence Corridor Overlay District was unanimously passed by the KCMO City Council on Thursday, July 21, making it the second overlay district in the city behind the Troost Corridor Overlay.
The community-backed, 3.5 mile overlay district had previously earned the unanimous approval of the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development committee on Wednesday, July 13. During that meeting, 3rd District Councilman Quinton Lucas made the proposal to move the committee sub forward with a recommendation of do pass; 4th District Councilwoman Katheryn Shields and 5th District Councilman Lee Barnes Jr. voted in favor. Remaining committee members Heather Hall (1st District) and Scott Taylor (6th district) were absent from the committee meeting.
Some uses along the Independence Avenue corridor will be prohibited from future development as a result of the overlay district, including group living, single-family, adult businesses, employment agencies, pawn shops, gasoline and fuel services, motor vehicle sales, and vehicle storage and towing, among others. The proposal also calls for the district to be split up into three separate zoning groups.
“There are different regulations that come into play for each area,” explained Ashley Winchell of the City Planning and Development office during the July 13 committee meeting.
According to Winchell, Area A (Forest to Benton; Paseo from Independence to 8th; Prospect from Independence to 8th) has the most historic buildings and the fewest vacant buildings; Area B (Benton to Topping) has more buildings with setbacks and more opportunity for development; Area C (Topping to Ewing) has the most structures in need of repair.
The overlay district was began it’s journey through City Hall on Tuesday, June 7, when the proposal was unanimously approved by the City Plan Commission. After that meeting, Plan Commission member and Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID) President Bobbi Baker-Hughes touted the importance of the new zoning regulations surrounding the Independence Avenue corridor.
“The future development of Independence Avenue requires developed guidelines, and that those guidelines are developed to ascertain the look and the feel of the urban community that we drive to be,” said Baker-Hughes. “Without those guidelines, we are just not going to build for the future.”
The goal of the Independence Corridor Overlay is to create regulations requiring high-quality building designs that emphasize pedestrian traffic along the corridor. City staff held at least 10 community meetings to gather input about the Independence Corridor Overlay proposal in advance of the Plan Commission hearing, while also mailing roughly 1,400 letters to those affected by the proposed new zoning regulations.
As previously reported by the Northeast News, the area of the proposed overlay district includes 156 acres along the Independence Avenue corridor. Current zoning includes medium-high density residential, commercial, and light industrial uses, but the majority of the uses in the area are commercial.
The overlay district plan replaces the Independence Avenue East Special Review District and the Independence Avenue West Special Review District with the new special character overlay district. Those special review districts were instituted in 1998, and are considered less strict than the regulations within the Zoning and Development code adopted in 2011. The overlay district creates alternative development and zoning goals for the Independence Avenue corridor that would regulate lot and building standards, architectural materials, facade articulation and composition, building transparency, parking and loading, screening, fencing and walls, and signage.
Councilman Quinton Lucas noted during the July 13 committee meeting that in his estimation, the Northeast community has largely come down in favor of the proposed zoning adjustments along Independence Avenue.
“I certainly think that there are a lot of folks excited by these different standards,” Lucas said.
Reached on Thursday, July 21, Baker-Hughes expressed optimism that the new overlay district will help bring exciting new developments to the Avenue.
“I think it’s yet another opportunity for us to really see that the development of Independence Avenue is in our future,” said Baker-Hughes. “With this overlay district, we know that we have city support to do great development in our community.”