LIBERTY — In a rare move, Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton cast the deciding vote after the six council members split the vote on the Liberty Parkway Plaza project. In Liberty, the mayor votes to break a tie.
The vote came after the council held second readings on two ordinances and a resolution for a preliminary plat for the plaza, the 68 acres on the south side of South Liberty Parkway, between U.S. Highway 69 and Flintlock Road.
The proposal is for a mixed use industrial and commercial center. The applicant, Hunter Harris and Liberty Industrial Holdings LLC, are proposing about 976,000 square feet in industrial and commercial space. The industrial area includes three buildings and the commercial area is eight service-oriented retail buildings.
Councilman Kevin Graham, who voted against the project, said he does not have a problem with the spec building and knows LANE 4, the real estate company, and Harris are known for top-notch projects, but that he is concerned with the project sitting at the doorway to the city.
“It’s the front door,” he said. “It’s not the right fit for that land. The sheer size, 741,000 square feet, is 13 contiguous football fields.”
Councilman Rae Moore also struggled with the building size.
“We have one chance to do this right,” she said.
Councilman Mike Hagan also voted against it.
“It’s one of the more agonizing projects, as we need spec buildings,” he said. “I’m not 100% there.”
Councilman Paul Jenness said the land has had several iterations of proposed developments for at least a couple decades.
“We stand to have a great chance of success with LANE 4,” he said. “They know how to give high quality. The neighbors of this land are the Claycomo Ford Plant and the stamping plant as well as a major interstate. I don’t think this is an odd fit. It’s the right project at the right place.”
Councilman Gene Gentrup agreed with Jenness that even with incentives offered to previous developers, the land has sat idle.
Councilman Jeff Watt supported the project but cautioned Harris to “have more than a concrete look.”
“It needs to be a classy layout,” he said. “I believe the plan still needs some more work.”
Harris said the project has been more than a year in the making to get the property under contract, plus the team met with city staff and Ford.
“We are not from out of state and we will do it right,” he said. “It will be a meaningful gateway. It’s going to be an area that will attract first class manufacturing and recruit them to this community. We are making a significant financial commitment.”
Harris said the final plan is still in the works, but he wants to see signage that draws the eye and what isn’t screened will be the retail buildings. The space may also provide a place for public art, he said.
Brenton said he was placed in an awkward position to break the tie.
“I respect the words of my colleagues here,” he said. “I also saw the unanimous recommendation from the planning and zoning commission and from city staff. It gives me pause. I’m less than excited about the large building, too. We know we need spec buildings and we hope those who want them will bring in good-paying jobs. We have high expectations and the city wants to be proud of the final product.”