City of Independence, Missouri

City Council takes steps to address blight in southwest Independence

The City Council approved an ordinance creating the Southwest Independence Redevelopment plan on Monday, Dec. 30. This plan establishes a redevelopment area south of 23rd Street, west of Sterling Avenue and between the City’s borders on the west and south sides. It also designates the area as blighted and approves the creation of the Southwest Independence Redevelopment District. 

“More than a decade ago voters in the Independence and Kansas City school districts approved annexation to bring schools located in Independence and Sugar Creek into the Independence School District,” Mayor Eileen Weir said. “This transformational decision by voters triggered re-investment in western Independence to restore and stabilize neighborhoods and commercial districts. ISD continues to grow in enrollment and academic achievement. In 2019, ISD opened its 20th elementary school, Cassell Park, located at 31st Street and Hardy Avenue. The Southwest Independence 353 Tax Abatement continues the promise made to voters to invest in strong neighborhoods and support neighborhood schools. The program allows homeowners to make property improvements and increase property values. Programs like 353 encourage homeownership, which keeps neighborhoods safe and stable. Implementing a tax abatement program for the City’s 4th District has been one of my stated goals since I was elected to the Council in 2012, and I am grateful for the support of the community, the Independence School District, and the City Council.” 

The neighborhoods in the redevelopment area are predominantly characterized by an older housing stock (built between 1939 and 1959) with pockets of newer more expensive homes and a relatively high home owner occupancy rate at approximately 70 percent. This older housing stock has proven to be affordable to residents earning between $42,225 and $49,795. At the same time, the number of rentals has increased in recent years and parts of the area are suffering from a lack of reinvestment from homeowners, stagnant property values, and an increase in blighting conditions such as deteriorating sidewalks and driveways, increased property maintenance violations, and crumbling infrastructure. 

“There are significant challenges in this area but they can be addressed through proactive efforts like this program and the incentives it provides to homeowners,” Mayor Pro Tem and 4th District Councilman Tom Van Camp said. “This is not the first time citizens in the 4th district have seen our focus on this area. Over the last year through a collaboration between the Council, city departments and neighborhoods, we took steps to improve sidewalks along the Sterling Avenue corridor. By working together with our citizens, businesses and the school district we will continue to provide the support and opportunities we need to make positive changes for southwest Independence.”

The Southwest Independence Redevelopment plan will permit property tax abatement for improvements to properties, primarily targeted at residential properties valued below the average home value in Independence, located within the area. In order to be sensitive to the other taxing jurisdictions the plan calls for a shorter timeframe for the application window and abatements then previous 353s adopted by the City Council. A 3-tiered system of tax abatement is proposed:

  1. Tier-I requires a minimum investment equal to or greater than 10 percent of the property’s current market value (as determined by Jackson County) at the time of application. The market value of the land is not affected by this freeze and taxes on the underlying property remain unchanged and taxed appropriately. 
  2. Tier-II requires an investment greater than or equal to 25 percent of the property’s market value (as determined by Jackson County) to receive an abatement of 25 percent of the improvements value. The market value of the land is not affected by this abatement and taxes on the underlying property remain unchanged and taxed appropriately.
  3. Tier-III requires an investment greater than or equal to the property's current market value (as determined by Jackson County) and must result in the reconstruction or new construction of an appropriate structure for the site. Investments that meet this threshold provide the owner a full reduction in their property improvements value to zero. Taxes on the underlying property remain unchanged and are taxed appropriately.

The program will take applications for 10 years with all abatements lasting for seven years. Tax abatement on the land is not included. The Economic Development and Incentives Commission heard all evidence and reviewed all materials presented on November 13, 2019, and voted unanimously in favor of recommending approval of the Plan to City Council. More information about the application process will be provided in the coming weeks to residents in the area.