Lee’s Summit is located southeast of Kansas City in Jackson County in a rapidly growing part of the metropolitan area. The southern portion of the city stretches into Cass County. The City of Independence is located immediately to the north, the City of Blue Springs to the northeast and the City of Greenwood to the southeast.
In 1854, William B. Howard and his wife constructed a house on his farm in the Lee’s Summit area. After the War between the States and his wife’s death in Kentucky, Mr. Howard returned to the area to reconstruct his farm, which had been destroyed during the war. The original town plat of Lee’s Summit was laid out in 1865 by Hoard covering seventy acres of his land. Twenty acres were divided into town lots and half of those lots were given to the railroad (formerly the Missouri Pacific Railroad but now the Union Pacific). Mr. Howard named the town "Strother", his wife’s family name.
The Missouri Pacific Railroad donated a boxcar to serve as the first railroad station in the new town. "Lee’s Summit" was painted on the boxcar. The railroad had chosen the name in honor of Dr. Pleasant Lea, a prominent local doctor who had recently been shot near the tracks and because the site was one of the highest summits on the line between St. Louis and Kansas City. The spelling of Lea was never corrected and the town was incorporated as Lee’s Summit on November 4, 1868.
One of the most famous outlaws of the 1860s considered Lee’s Summit his home. Cole Younger rode with his brothers and with Jesse James. In his later years, he retired to Lee’s Summit and became a peaceful and respected citizen. He was a favorite with children who gathered on his front porch to listen to his thrilling stories of the past. He is buried in a cemetery northeast of town.
Lee’ s Summit quickly became an important commercial center for the agricultural area that surrounded it and an important transportation center. In 1880 with a population of 900, the town was the second largest grain shipping point in Jackson County. The town boasted 25 businesses, five churches, five physicians and four attorneys.
In 1896, Lee’s Summit claimed to be the largest shipping point on the Missouri Pacific Railroad between Kansas City and St. Louis except for Sedalia. By 1900, the town was well known for its nurseries and large orchards and had a population of 2,000. Lacking industry, the city’s growth rate slowed after the turn of the century as the agricultural area around it became fully developed. This slow growth rate continued until 1950. The city’s population increased from 2,554 in 1950 to 8,267 in 1960, an increase of 223 percent. This growth was due primarily to the suburban exodus of people from Kansas City and by the location of the western Electric Plant in the city that helped shift the city’s economic base from an agricultural and transportation center to an independent suburb of Kansas City.
Lee’s Summit’s population continued to increase after 1970 because of the city’s annexation of thousands of acres of land to swell the city area to over 64 square miles and because of the availability of land in the area to accommodate the region’s growth. The city’s population continued to grow rapidly over the next two decades, rising from a 1970 census population of 16,190 to 46,418 in 1990.
The most recent comprehensive plan update for the entirety of the city was conducted in 1993 by Harland Bartholomew & Associates, a planning consultant from St. Louis. In 1996, the city initiated another comprehensive plan update effort to re-evaluate the development patterns, future development options and necessary quality controls, primarily along I-470, resulting in the adoption of the I-470 Corridor Plan. This corridor plan lays out the future development pattern and outlines the development strategies and quality development guidelines for the corridor area that is generally north of Chipman Road.
With the rapid growth of the city in recent years, development pressure has been pushing its way to the south area that is not addressed by the I-470 Corridor Plan. The land use pattern as laid out in the 1993 Comprehensive Plan no longer meets the desire of the community for a balanced land use pattern and high quality development. A comprehensive planning effort was initiated by the city officials in the summer of 1998 to revisit the portion of the 1993 Comprehensive Plan that had not been addressed by the I-470 Corridor Plan. The purpose of this effort is to re-evaluate the conditions of the area, map out the future land use pattern and public infrastructure needs and identify implementation strategies to reflect the community’s long-term vision for the area.
Lee’s Summit has grown into several very distinctive areas. This warrants community’s attention to the unique characteristics and opportunities of individual areas. The I-470 Corridor Plan took the first step in recognizing the uniqueness of this highway corridor area and recommended unique strategies towards quality development. Our planning effort will continue to recognize and direct special attentions to the uniqueness of different areas.
Comprehensive Plan Defined
A comprehensive plan is an official document that sets forth a long-term vision for the entire planning area in terms of its land use pattern, infrastructure provision, and community well-being. It has four key features:
Comprehensive Plan Document
Like the comprehensive planning process, the comprehensive plan document should be an ever-changing document. Nothing in this document is set in stone. It should also be an open-ended document, meaning that different plan elements may be added or thrown out at any time through legal plan update procedure.
The plan document is structured in such a way that plans and studies of separate areas may be incorporated at different times. Due to the availability and levels of detail of some key statistics at the time when individual plans or studies are done, some statistical analyses presented in different parts of this plan may not match the study areas exactly. In such cases, they should be used with caution, especially for comparison purposes.