Public hearings on an update to Joplin’s comprehensive plan and changes in the standards for business developments are on tonight’s agenda for the Joplin City Council.

The guidelines are intended to create a more attractive city, particularly in view of the likelihood that retail and commercial use will expand into areas that were residential before the May 22 tornado destroyed more than 7,500 residences.

That has created challenges for the City Council and the city staff to protect existing and future residential areas from the problems that commercial growth can cause, mainly in terms of appearance, maintenance and traffic.

That was the experience last month when some former residents of Highview Avenue, south of 20th Street, asked the council to change the zoning on their properties to commercial to take advantage of neighboring Range Line Road zoning. The council declined because of concerns about how a developer could be required to build and maintain an adequate buffer from houses across Highview Avenue.

City Planner Troy Bolander said the intention of the changes is to have standards in place for zoning changes and commercial building.

“I think what we are proposing is something to address some of their concerns, especially as we look at rezoning corridors,” Bolander said.

“It helps address concerns about speculation zoning and how to preserve residential neighborhoods near these properties, and having a plan in place for a rezoning request” in which the zoning could have an impact on the surrounding area, he said.

A consulting firm, Lochner/BWR, helped the city’s planning department draft the updates and changes.

As part of the proposed changes, the update of the comprehensive plan incorporates recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, which looked at redevelopment as a result of the devastating damage from the tornado.

As a result, the comprehensive plan and zoning revisions will establish:

• Mixed-use development standards for Main Street.

• Multi-use standards for building commercial and office space mixed with residential apartments on South Main Street, 20th and 26th streets, and Connecticut Avenue.

• Multi-use commercial development on South Range Line Road.

Examples of some of the changes were shown during an open house Feb. 14.

Bolander said the standards encourage improved quality of design of commercial and retail buildings. He said developers will be asked to look at a design for all four sides of a building instead of the front alone, and to consider the placement of the building on the site instead of always placing it at the back with parking in the front.

“It can be something as simple as incorporating a design to match the neighborhood next to you,” Bolander said. More durable and attractive building materials are encouraged for business structures and apartment buildings.

The changes address site design, landscaping, buffering and different ways to soften the appearance of commercial development, he said.

A public hearing also is scheduled on a proposal that the city annex 40 acres of land at 44th Street and Connecticut Avenue. Owner David Powell wants to put in a commercial development. The land had been located within the village of Leawood, which denied Powell’s request for commercial zoning and then de-annexed the property.

In its informal meeting before the 6 p.m. formal session, the council will hear a staff report on an increase in rates for trash service. The rates are set by a contract between the city and its franchise hauler.

Meeting place

The City Council meets on the fifth floor of City Hall, 602 S. Main St.

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