by David Tanner The Examiner
Story last updated at 10:10 a.m. Saturday, June 21, 2003
Part Three in a Series
This is the third story in a series about the Arcadia Land Company project in the Little Blue Valley.
The Little Blue Valley makes up 48 percent of the land area within the city limits of Independence.
While most of the 20,000-acre valley is made up of open fields, trees, hills and streams, the city's comprehensive plan indicates a likelihood for continued residential and mixed development, along with additional streets and neighborhood centers.
One of the valley's major stake holders is the Community of Christ, known until two years ago as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
"About 3,500 acres are owned by the church," said Randall E. Pratt, executive minister in the church's business office.
By calculation, the church's land in the valley makes up 17.5 percent of the land the comprehensive plan study group outlined in its 1999 document.
Pratt said the church, which has its world headquarters in Independence, began buying land in the valley close to 100 years ago, as part investment and part religious philosophy.
"The church views Jackson County as a special place," he said.
Although many transactions have taken place over the years, the church's most significant deal of late is with the Arcadia Land Company of Pennsylvania, the designer behind two developments making waves.
Arcadia is purchasing 700 acres from the church to build Crenshaw and Village One, which will combine for 890 new dwellings.
The proposed developments are located south of Truman Road along Crenshaw Road, and north of Strode Road between Crenshaw Road and Missouri 7, respectively.
The company is promoting Crenshaw and Village One as traditional neighborhood designs, based on a concept of relatively high-density residential areas surrounded by acres of shared open space and park land.
"It is our attempt to go back and recreate, in a new subdivision, a traditional neighborhood," said Arcadia's managing director William H. Tucker.
The homes, Tucker says, will be somewhat close together and close to the street, with front porches and small lawns, but they will be in close proximity to village centers and park land.
"It will be a pedestrian-oriented community," Tucker said.
The neighborhoods will be built around village centers, which will house schools, civic buildings and athletic fields.
Pratt adds that the neighborhood concepts depart from plans City Hall has seen for other developments the last few years in the valley.
"(Open space) should be enjoyed by the community as a whole and not just people in bigger houses that back up to it," he said.
Setbacks from any creeks will be a minimum of 100 feet, he says, which is a voluntary measure. Buffers of natural trees and hills, according to the developer, will provide a good shield from neighboring subdivisions.
The land for the Crenshaw development will be 57 percent open space, while Village One will be 36 percent open space.
"What makes this unique is we promote environmental responsibility," Tucker said.
Arcadia's goals for the developments fit well with the church's vision for its holdings in the valley.
Pratt highlights three goals:
n Assist Independence in carrying out the comprehensive plan for the area.
n Encourage quality residential communities with well-designed neighborhoods and new housing choices to welcome diversity.
n Protect the natural resources and beauty of the area and preserve open space to be enjoyed by all.
"Do the hills and woods have to belong to one family or can they belong to everybody?" Pratt said.
After the church sells 700 acres to Arcadia, the developer will then sell it to the building company. In turn, the building company will sell individual homes to the buyers based on the market.
Pratt says the church has been getting feedback from citizens who think the developments are for church members only.
"This is not an exclusive community for members of the Community of Christ," he said, adding that some members are opposed to the project.
Some members are neighbors of the property involved in a protest group concerned with road safety and improvement strategies.
The church is currently working on a potential 900 more acres of residential and mixed-use development, Pratt says, but the stake holder has not decided on a development company.
"We have a significant investment in the community," Pratt said, "And we want to ensure the highest quality."
Those 900 acres, when compared to the city's comprehensive plan, may one day include a town center along Truman Road, east of the Independence Power and Light power plant.
That town center, according to the city's Community Development Department, may include some retail and commercial businesses.
But for the next eight years at least, development in the Little Blue Valley will be residential in nature.
The next story in the Arcadia series will be about how the proposed developments will impact school districts, police and fire protection and public utilities.
To reach David Tanner send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 350-6324.
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