Design guidelines and zoning updates that will give Joplin a different look in the future were adopted Monday night by the City Council.
It is a new chapter for a town nearly 139 years old now scarred across its entire center section — six miles east to west — by the fury of last May’s EF-5 tornado. The twister was blamed for 161 deaths, and it damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 dwellings and businesses.
“While the human loss will never be forgotten, we have the ability to rebuild,” City Planner Troy Bolander told the council Monday night in asking that the panel adopt the new development tools. While passage will represent a change, and change is not always easy, Bolander told the council that the hope arises, “Now that we have been granted a chance to do it over, can we do it better?”
A plan put together by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team identifying concepts new to Joplin in terms of housing and commercial development and redefining land uses in certain locations has given the city a guidebook for redevelopment.
“What do these concepts look like, and how do we implement them? That is the question,” Bolander said of the set of design guidelines.
Those guidelines will be added to the city’s comprehensive development plan, and the accompanying zoning changes will encourage their use in building a more attractive city that melds commercial development with surrounding neighborhoods.
The comprehensive plan changes will establish new standards of development, said Scott Michie, a planning consultant from the firm of Lochner/BWR in Kansas City. The firm developed the plan and zoning changes based on a series of meetings with local officials and meetings at which public input was sought.
One element will be a mixed-use district for Main Street from the center of town north to downtown that incorporates retail and other commercial uses such as offices with upstairs apartments. Another will be a multi-use district along South Main Street to Interstate 44, and 20th Street and South Connecticut Avenue that allows apartments, duplexes and neighborhood commercial uses. There also will be multi-use districts on corridors such as South Range Line Road where heavier retail and commercial use will be located.
The standards will encourage developers to blend their buildings with styles that suit the surrounding neighborhoods, call for the use of durable building materials such as masonry rather than vinyl siding, and set out suggestions for landscaping and parking, Michie said.
“These are development standards that put the ball back in the private sector” to draw up a design for use without the city dictating what design will be used, he said.
Bolander said as an example that buildings should have some of the same design elements as surrounding neighborhoods, such as the same roof pitches and style of architecture.
Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg asked if the city would have the tools to buffer commercial development from residential areas. He made reference to recent requests that the council turned down regarding properties on Highview Avenue south of 20th Street, and on 22nd street between Range Line and Highview Avenue where the owners of residential lots sought a change to commercial zoning. The council denied the Highview Avenue request and tabled the 22nd Street request because of concerns for neighboring homeowners.
Bolander said the changes would give the city the tools to integrate those commercial expansions close to residential neighborhoods without creating so much of an eyesore along with the problems of traffic and light.
Six residents spoke in favor of the changes at public hearings Monday night. They were Dr. Keith Grebe, 2736 E. 15th St.; Allyn Burt, of Charles Burt Realtors; Clive Veri, of Commerce Bank, representing the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team; Ruth Sawkins, 2009 S. Connecticut Ave.; Kenny Parker, 1669 S. Osage Orange Road; and Allen Hall, a local real estate developer. No one spoke against the proposals.
Another public hearing did bring out opposition for the council to hear.
One resident of Leawood and one from Joplin spoke in opposition to a request by developer David Powell that the city annex about 42 acres at 44th Street and Connecticut Avenue. Powell won deannexation of the land by the village of Leawood after his bid to rezone the tract for commercial use was denied by the village board. He wants to build medical offices and retail shops in conjunction with the new hospital being constructed by Sisters of Mercy Health System at 50th Street and Hearnes Boulevard.
The council voted 7-2 to advance the request to second and third reading.
CITY ATTORNEY BRIAN HEAD said Joplin and Leawood will need to locate the exact boundary lines of the city and village limits in the area of the David Powell property to determine who has jurisdiction over the intersecting streets.