Joplin favors unrestricted commercial growth
November 07, 2006

Heavy equipment continues to move the dirt in preparation for the construction of One Summit Plaza, a 4-story office building that will adjoin the OccuMed parking lot on McClelland Blvd. in Joplin. Without public comment Crossland Construction, the site's developer, has clear cut approximately 11 acres of land. The photo was taken from the parking lot of the Joplin YMCA on McIntosh Circle.

Residents in the southern end of Joplin were outraged last night towards the final minutes of the city council meeting after they were denied the right to provide public input regarding the development plan review request submitted by Crossland Construction. The Columbus, KS-based company after removing all the trees from the property is in the process of preparing it for the construction of One Summit Plaza, a 4-story office building with required parking for 270 vehicles.

According to Jennifer Jones of McClelland Blvd., a group of concerned citizens were present at a planning and zoning meeting to offer public input on the Crossland project. They didn't see the project on the agenda, she said, and left before discovering that it was a "write-in." Troy Bolander, city of Joplin planning specialist, obviously was incorrect in suggesting that the group could speak regarding the issue at the council meeting, she added.

"When told that the city staff and the council work together," Jones said, "we don't understand how the city council can slam the door in our faces." "The growth of the city will bring people in. When the word gets out that the council slams the door in people's faces, they're not going to come in."

Bolander told the council that the Crossland project should have additional landscaping along 32nd Street and more green space and admitted that access for this property was "not an excellent choice" but that it was "put in the safest spot they could," but these failings did not generate any discussion from council members.

Former Mayor Phil Stinnett, who appeared often to be postulating to the TV audience, brought up Range Line Road as an if-only-we-knew what was going to happen area. He claimed to be "really disappointed that there weren't "rules and regulations to force developers to address traffic" but that it was "too late at this time." Presumably, he was referring to the mess on Range Line. However, the implication that the local residents took away was that even given this history, development along 32nd Street would be allowed to proceed with the same lack of planning.

"The board is a rubber stamp for developers. It's a disgrace", shouted Dave Henness of Deer Ridge Trail who carried his anger into the hall after the meeting was adjourned. "I'd like the city council to treat their citizens with respect. Instead they sit up on a throne."

Henness' displeasure started to foment after the council voted 8-1 to grant approval for the zoning request by Kyle Denham, spokesperson for Kanan Properties, that changed a 25-acre parcel of land located south of 3404 South McIntosh Circle from District R-3 to District C-O-PD. The vote to allow for the possible development of medical office buildings rather than the potential for apartment complexes came after more than half a dozen neighbors spoke in opposition to the council's decision to make the zoning change without first requiring a site plan in writing.

Calling the council members "demeaning and patronizing," Jones said that it soon became obvious that the council had already made a decision and were just not listening.

Autumnal foliage can be seen on part of the 25-acres owned by Kanan Properties. Former council member Rebecca Kanan, the daughter-in-law of Fannun Kanan, who is co-owner of the property with his wife, spoke on his behalf in support of rezoning the property from a residential/apartment use to that of a planned development area for one to two story office buildings. Part of the property also would be reserved for the expansion of parking facilities for the nearby Southtown YMCA. Seated, at right, is Fannun Kanan.

Voices of opposition included those of Sue Reece of S. Missouri Ave. and Sandra Ellis of Empire Ave. Reece who said she had lived in Joplin since 1941 said she was against any growth that would indiscriminately kill trees. "God gave us trees," she said. "Let's take care of it."

Ellis, introducing herself as a representative of a new group called Sustainable Joplin, said that it was the responsibility of the council to foster development in ways that were environmentally and economically responsible. She alerted them to the fact that Tin Cup Creek that surrounds the properties in question feeds into the watershed. Her remarks, "We need to preserve clean water" seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Lisa Lewis of Hilltop Road became very emotional when she outlined to the council how lights, noise and road problems from the new development would lead to loss of value of the group's residential properties. And the outrageous suggestion from Stinnett that her area is not going to grow and that her "small...little neighborhood" was "in the wrong place" did nothing to allay her fears.

Stinnett said he took personally the comment that the influence of Freeman Hospital was fueling the expansion. However, it became clear that creating a health care mecca over preserving the beauty of an upscale residential area was the design the council had in mind.

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We should note that only four of the seven members on the zoning and planning commission were present at their second Monday of the month meeting to recommend approval of the council agenda bills. In the council work session last night Councilman Jim West, who was the only dissenter to the rezoning of Kanan's property, voiced his concern over the apparent lack of interest on the part of the remaining members. The discussion that followed revealed that members of six other boards had missed three consecutive sessions as well and by law were subject to dismissal. The council decided to reinstate everybody and that the mayor would write a letter to each of them encouraging his or her further participation. One can only guess what excuses each might give for being absent.

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