The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 25, 2012

Joplin council candidates voice views on tornado recovery

Zoning, jobs, prevailing wage cited as concerns

JOPLIN, Mo. — Candidates for Joplin City Council see needs for more restrictive zoning and job development among the issues related to the city’s recovery from the massive EF-5 tornado that wiped away nearly a third of the city last year.

The five candidates for two general seats and two candidates for a Zone 2 seat were asked by the Globe what issues they think should be addressed as a result of the tornado damage.

Candidates for the general seats in the April 3 election are incumbents Morris Glaze, 61, 3321 S. Delaware Ave., and Bill Scearce, 70, 626 Jaccard Place; and challengers Ryan Jackson, 29, 1729 S. Wall Ave.; Shaun Steele, 40, 230 N. Sergeant Ave.; and Jim West, 61, 1602 Valley St.

In Zone 2, incumbent Melodee Colbert-Kean, 44, 527 N. Moffet Ave., is challenged by Harvey Hutchinson, 67, 4512 W. 27th Place.

GENERAL CANDIDATES

Steele, a postal worker, said he sees loss of revenue as a main concern that could potentially affect the city. He also would like the city to implement more strict building requirements in commercial zones, and impose strict buffers between commercial zones and residential areas.

“I want this to become a great city in which we become the model for disaster recovery,” Steele said. “I want the city to become more environmentally aware and create a beautiful place where the residents thrive.”

Jackson, a businessman, said he sees a need for city officials to more actively help connect tornado-stricken residents with resources to regain homes that were lost through such organizations as Habitat for Humanity, and other nonprofit and church groups.

He supports making many of those zoning changes for planned districts so that the city has some control to oversee establishing buffers between residential and commercial land.

There also is a need for Joplin to inform residents about the status of city projects that were in planning before the tornado, Jackson said. “Keeping on track with the city blueprint and accomplishing projects to enhance Joplin’s quality of life, opportunities for economic development and continuing neighborhood improvement projects are just as important now as before,” he said.

Scearce, an insurance salesman, said city officials have been so busy with tornado recovery that economic development and new job creation have been put on the back burner. “I would want the city to play a larger role in economic development and new job creation rather than contract with outside agencies and groups,” Scearce said. “I want to make sure that everyone who desires a job has one.”

He sees planned-district zoning with green spaces as a way to buffer commercial and residential districts.

Scearce sees traffic patterns, the compatibility of new housing and spot zoning as issues the council will have to watch as a result of tornado redevelopment.

West, a marketer at a roofing company and a former council member, said the city can best serve residents through the tornado recovery by getting out information about programs that will help them rebuild and relocate, but not complicate their lives with red tape.

West favors a set of standards being put in place to protect neighborhoods from commercial development, but said the standards should be workable for commercial development. “That way all parties’ interests will be protected,” he said.

He said the city must stay on track with initiatives that will move the recovery effort forward as fast as possible.

Glaze, a transportation salesman, said he sees few issues or needs related to tornado recovery that the city has not addressed, except encouraging more construction of affordable housing and “getting the homeowners to build storm shelters at the residence or in their neighborhoods.”

Residential areas can best be protected from expanded commercial zoning by the City Council paying attention to the recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team and the planning and zoning codes, he said, along with adopting the recommendations of the future master developer the city plans to hire.

ZONE 2

Incumbent Colbert-Kean, a real estate saleswoman, commends the city staff for its efforts to bring about the recovery work. She advocates the application of the recovery team’s recommendations. “While not all aspects may be able to be implemented at one time, it serves as a guiding tool to ensure the redevelopment and progress of our city is geared toward mixing our business and residential community in a manner that benefits each, but does not pit one over the other,” she said.

Residents can best be protected from that commercial growth through the channels established for rezoning in which public hearings are held and presentations are made regarding the proposals and their impact, she said.

Hutchinson, 67, a consulting firm owner, said the city should double its efforts toward redevelopment, foster efforts for the recovery of education and health care, and look at projects that were already planned before the storm, such as the expansion of fire and police services and recreational provisions, particularly for young people. “We should not let the events of 2011 slow any of this investment and growth down,” Hutchinson said.

He sees a recent increase in prevailing wage as having a potential impact on the recovery. “Prevailing wage requirements should have been suspended during the tornado crisis as it as been several times in the past,” he said, citing past national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina.

He supports the recovery team’s plan for commercial and residential development.

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