Rightsizing Downtown Liberty
Rightsizing Downtown advocates for the appropriate and optimum use of the abandoned lot at the corner of Prairie and Mississippi street in Liberty, MO, near the historic Liberty Square.
The neighbors have drafted the letter below to the City Council in advance of the September 28th meeting where a vote will be taken to approve or deny the current proposal. The neighbors have decided to also use this letter as a petition for other concerned Liberty citizens who might share their concerns.
If rightsized land development is important to you and, more specifically, if showing your support for the neighbors in this specific situation is important to you, we encourage you to add your name to the petition and include your address in the Comments section. Thank you.
September 24, 2020
Dear Council Members,
First, thank you all for your work and commitment to Liberty – it is much appreciated. Also, we wanted to extend thanks to the architect and the developer for all the work they have put into this plan. Their work is not unnoticed and we are thankful for their efforts to make a better plan. That said, we still believe there is more work to do.
Over the past several years, the collaborative process between the developer, city leadership, and the neighbors has indeed produced a plan that is far superior to the original 2013 proposal which included 80 units. The applicant has cited more than two dozen improvements that have been made by the developer over the years. These improvements, which are reflected in the current proposal, affirm the positive progress we have made together.
Here’s the thing. We are not opposed to the redevelopment of this site. We never have been. We support multi-family housing. We like the design. We are just of the strong belief that there are too many units and not enough off-street parking to best ensure that the project fits into the neighborhood and that it is successful over time.
So, to our concerns. It comes down to this: The plan is too dense. It doesn’t fit the neighborhood. Further, the application does not meet the City’s own approval criteria – as is stipulated in the staff report.
The Staff Report includes Review Criteria that are to be used when evaluating a rezoning application. It is clear that 2 of the 3 Review Criteria are not met. This seems significant to us.
Review Criteria #1: Conformance to the Comprehensive Plan. There are 2 plans referenced:
First – The Blueprint calls for a density of up to 6 units per acre. This proposal shows 38 units or 22 units per acre. Considering the lot contains 1.73 acres, you could make the case that perhaps 10-11 units would be appropriate. The Staff Report acknowledges this by concluding that “this application does not meet the intent of the Plan”. Surprisingly, this was not enough to discourage support of the application.
Second – The Downtown Master Plan is very clear about this site and even includes a map and chart with specific details. It calls for 7 attached single-family units, perhaps with flexibility to allow commercial on the ground floor. The Plan also calls for the 2 single family lots to remain as is. If these 2 lots are included, you could make a case that perhaps 9-10 units would be appropriate. The Staff Report insists that there are inconsistencies in the Plan and therefore the Plan is ineffective so it should be ignored. We strongly disagree – the Plan is clear and specific, and, it should be applicable.
Review Criteria #2: Consider the effect on neighboring properties
The Staff Report acknowledges that it will have a substantial impact on the neighborhood, some positive and some negative. On the one hand, it states that it will be positive for the Downtown merchants as it will add more shoppers. This, no doubt, is positive. On the other hand, the Report also states that neighbors will be clearly and adversely affected. Our hope is that a plan could be developed that not only supports the merchants but also doesn’t adversely impact the neighbors – these are not mutually exclusive issues.
Finally, we ask that you recall that beginning with the original 80-unit conversation seven years ago, the neighbors and city leaders have been told repeatedly that the proposed density of each successive plan was essential and set at the absolute lowest level to ensure the possibility for a financially viable plan. With this history, it is fair to assume that additional revisions resulting in less density would also prove to be financially viable – and – most assuredly, result in a more suitable plan.
Today, we ask that our City Council insist on fewer units to best ensure that city guidelines are honored, best practices are followed, downtown merchants reap the benefits of more foot traffic, while at the same time ensuring that the developer, the city, and the neighborhood all have a project we can celebrate. We are so very close.
In conclusion, we appreciate your time and your commitment to Liberty. We believe a consensus plan is there to be had and we would be willing to find common ground between the 22 units per acre and the 6 units contemplated in the Comprehensive Plan.
Residents of the Dougherty Historic District Neighborhood