INDEPENDENCE — The Independence City Council is scheduled on Jan. 14 to make a decision on an appeal to a planning commission approval on the next phases of the Brandy Meadows development.

The 67-lot subdivision will include 81 housing units which will consist of 47 single family, 11 duplex lots, eight lots for town homes and one lot for a four-unit apartment building.

The council held a public hearing on Dec. 10 on the appeal, which was filed by Independence resident Rich Clark.

Clark said there are elements of the Brandy Meadows plans for phases two, three and four that are not consistent with the Southwest Independence Concept Plan or the Independence Master Plan.

City employees and the developers of the property disagree.

The areas of disagreement are land use approval, multi-use trail easements, riparian zone easements, and the open space network.

In addition to his appeal, Clark provided comments to the planning commission at its Sept. 9 and Sept. 23 meetings, and spoke to councilors on Dec. 10.

“City councilors tonight have a real opportunity for improving the livability of our community, as well as to promote a healthy lifestyle for residents and visitors,” he said. “I encourage you to not move forward with development without due diligence in designing and creating a trail network which will contribute greatly to the quality of life of people that live here.”

He said he thinks it is important to set aside land for the trail network before approving housing development proposals.

Clark said he also would like the city to improve access to Inspiration Garden, “which has evolved into a real gem of an outdoor resource for the people of Independence.”

He said the city got a lot of public input about trails, hiking, biking and access to natural areas and active recreational opportunities.

Clark is an anesthesiologist and said he deals with the “health crisis” of obesity on a daily basis. These opportunities would help with that, he said.

The council imposed a 10-minute limit to presentations by city staff, the developer and Clark. Clark did not finish his testimony in that time frame, but submitted it to the city recorder as part of the public record for the hearing.

“Now when we’re going through this, and when the planning commission went through this, basically to make a decision, we have to have a code basis to base that decision,” said Fred Evander, community planner.

Evander said the parks plan does not show a trail along the east side of Brandy Meadows.

“Why is that? Well, for one, Sunset Meadows had been completed in the interim and had, as the parks plan shows, a trail going through the park in Sunset Meadows,” Evander said. “That trail is about 400 feet away from that north-south trail on the east side of, that was shown on the east side of Brandy Meadows. My thought is that whoever drafted this and whoever adopted this was thinking that this trail met the intent, met the goal of looped trail system through the city of Independence that was envisioned in both the southwest plan and the parks and open space plan.”

Regarding riparian zone easements, Evander said the criterion states “there shall be a 25 foot greenway setback required along the banks of Ash Creek. The 25 feet shall begin at the top of the bank or at the high water mark, whichever is higher.”

Later in the discussion, city attorney Carrie Connelly said she thinks they can resolve the matter “to the benefit of the opponents, as well as the applicant, and allow the matter to move forward if we include a condition of approval, which is that your development will meet this criteria.”

Developer Harvey Cummings said he was OK with that.

Regarding open space resources, Clark wrote in his appeal that “linear parks, in the design of the multi-use trail with stormwater swales, would encourage active recreation for people of all ages.”

Evander said the project is proposing a stormwater facility that can double as a park.

“We’ve specifically made it clear through the conditions for the proposal that we would like this stormwater facility to be designed flat so it can double as recreational land, not just a stormwater facility,” he said. “This development achieves what the southwest plan was talking about. It achieves linked network trails, especially as it connects to Sunset Meadows from the east and it starts to connect to Inspiration Garden to the north. It achieves a joint park with stormwater in it.”

Other residents of the neighboring Sunset Meadows area gave testimony in favor of the appeal that also included concerns with traffic as development moves forward.

That will not be considered as part of the Dec. 10 hearing on Brandy Meadows.

Councilor Kathy Martin-Willis asked for clarification from Connelly.

“I just want to clarify that tonight we’re restrict our decision making to point two, trail easement, point three, riparian zone easement, and point four, the open space network and the associated ordinances,” Martin-Willis said.

Connelly confirmed that was correct.

Tom Pessemier, city manager, said he appreciated the input about the traffic concerns.

“Very shortly we’re going to be talking about all of those issues,” he said. “Including trail connectivity and pathways, bike ways, pedestrian ways, roadway connectivity.”

He said that will be a very public process.

“I heard a lot of great testimony, and I would love it if everybody would participate,” Pessemier said. “We will advertise it — it will be in social media, it will be on our website. The news will be out there. We’ll do our best to let people know. That is the best opportunity to flesh a lot of these issues out. To have positive impact. That transportation plan takes in all those modes of connectivity. A lot of times we hear about traffic, but we don’t hear a lot about pedestrian ways and bike ways, so that’s a great opportunity for people.”

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