By Dennis Minich
The Harrisonville Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a pair of ordinances Monday night designed to make the city “business friendlier” and easier to work with.
One of the ordinances allows businesses in several zoning districts to use detached accessory buildings without receiving permission from the city. Previously not allowed, detached buildings of less than 150-square-feet will now be allowed as long as they adhere to setback requirements, are screened from view and are permanently anchored.
There was some discussion about what constituted a detached building and a proposed increase to 200-square-feet was declined.
The second ordinance deals with driveways and parking lots in the city. Previous codes required driveways for new housing to be paved.
Under the new plan, lots in “the older part of the city” can now be redeveloped with gravel driveways. City Planner Roger Kroh said the change was made as “several” developers had inquired about infill development, (new homes on old lots) but were not following through because of the cost of paving driveways.
The second part of the ordinance deals with requirements for paved parking lots, which again, the board was told was chasing off potential businesses.
The center of attention early in the debate was the Beck Event Space which utilizes a parking lot on Mechanic Street between Lexington and Independence.
When the owners of the facility, Scott Beck and Mike Freeland, were granted a special-use permit in 2015 part of the condition was that the parking lot be paved up to city standards by Dec. 1 of this year.
John Foster spoke during public participation saying while the owners had cited cost overruns on the building, they had signed an agreement to pave the lot.
“When they signed the agreement with the city for the special-use permit, it was a contract,” Foster said.
He also noted they had made no attempt to honor the pledge.
Beck then spoke to the board and said, “The Beck does not own a parking lot. Another company based in Jackson County owns the lot.”
He added the company which owns the lot is JJS Properties and the Beck pays a small amount for the use of the lot.
Later during questioning, Beck admitted he owns JJS Properties and that the fact the Beck doesn’t own the lot was not intentional.
“The fact that the Beck doesn’t own the lot is an oversight. I was not intending to mislead anyone,” he said.
He added they had not considered paving the lot for some time.
“It wasn’t even on our radar anymore,” he said.
Freeland presented the board with pictures of what he said were “code compliant” properties, along with what he said costs for paving would be.
“I will plead with you if I need to. We will improve this property, we want to improve this property. If you put the hammer down on us, I just don’t know,” he said.
Aldermen Judy Bowman and Marcia Milner questioned the need for the zoning changes when only three permits for driveway variances had been requested in the past year. Bowman also questioned why the parking issue shouldn’t be left alone and the city negotiate a new special-use permit for the Beck.
Mayor Brian Hasek said it was about much more than the one business.
“There are more here than just the Beck. We lost a concrete plant because of the ordinance, there’s the VFW. There are buildings in the industrial area that people have wanted, but wouldn’t invest in it because of the ordinance,” he said.
Alderman David Dickerson added, “Sometimes you just have to trust people. They said they want to improve the lot, we need to give them time.”
Now the law requires paved parking lots only if new buildings are built on a lot.
Driveways of more than 100 feet in length can be gravel as long as there is a 10-foot paved approach to the street and gravel driveways in new construction in the older parts of town will only have to have a paved approach of 10 feet to the sidewalk, whichever is greater.
The board also heard on first reading the city’s budget for 2019. The budget of nearly $35,375,000 was described as balanced, done without a levy increase and includes capital purchases for the parks department and the fire department.
The board was also informed the traveling Vietnam War Memorial will be in Harrisonville from June 27 to July 1 next year.