he Parkville Board of Aldermen approved much of the plans for a new 300-acre residential, commercial and retail development near Interstate 435 and Hwy. 45, amid allegations from a citizens’ group that the system is flawed and officials have behaved corruptly in the process.
At the end of a five hour specially-called meeting, the aldermen voted unanimously in favor of plans for three of four sections proposed by Brian Mertz of Parkville Development.
The development plan includes single- and multi-family residential units and commercial buildings, including a hotel, grocery store, restaurants, bars, gas stations, office buildings, a police substation and baseball diamonds designed for tournament play.
The board will consider a second and final reading of the proposed plan during a 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday, Nov. 6.
An industrial portion of the plan is being re-submitted under a different zoning classification and was sent back to the planning and zoning commission for a recommendation before advancing to the board of aldermen.
The vote follows numerous objections by members of Citizens for A Better Parkville, who have claimed during public hearings and through a website that the development plan is too dense and contains too little green space and too little space between buildings. The group also has complained about alleged conflicts of interest among city officials and that many of their concerns have not been addressed in revised development plans.
Opponents also claim that city leaders have violated a Missouri law aimed at transparency in government.
Clarence Housh, who owns a home that faces Brink Meyer Road, in the heart of the planned development, echoed criticism by other residents. Housh said his home and adjoining five acres will be greatly impacted since plans call for new construction surrounding his home and property on three sides. Housh, a local home builder, said the development plans deviate from commonly-held construction practices in several ways. The plans are too dense, with too many buildings located near existing and new construction.
In addition, the plans are not consistent with Parkville’s Master Plan, he said, a roadmap outlining the city’s future development goals.
“They want to put commercial and residential heavy density right next to my property line,” Housh said, adding that builders pay for green space and the plan is, therefore, financially advantageous to Mertz.
Housh added that a parking lot would be located only a few feet from his property line and that one area calls for multiple buildings on a little more than 35 acres. He said the plans are unprecedented in construction.
“You don’t put residential and commercial right next to each other,” Housh said.
However, Mertz told a meeting room packed with residents Tuesday night that some changes to the plans originated with residents’ concerns. For instance, in the area near Housh’s home at the southeast corner of Interstate 435 and Missouri 45, some single-family homes were removed from plans and some additional landscaping/green space was added.
Parkville City Administrator Joe Parente added during an interview that Mertz and his attorney have been very diligent about addressing citizen concerns voiced at the recent public hearings before the planning and zoning commission, even making changes multiple times throughout the review process.
The latest proposed development plan is available on the city’s website at www.parkvillemo.gov.
In addition, Parente said packets of information supplied to the aldermen at the meeting include public comments and concerns presented during earlier public hearings during planning and zoning commission meetings. When discussing the development’s Old Town area, Mertz said some residents have complained that the plan calls for too many restaurants.
“The market will dictate what will be supported downtown,” he said. However, Jason Maki, a spokesperson for the PAC, said following the meeting that he believes most changes to the developer’s plan are “superficial.”
Maki said he’s disappointed that the developer did not heed all recommendations of the planning and zoning commission. Among them was reducing the number of apartments in one building by half. Instead, Mertz said he added more green space by removing two one-way roads and adding a walking trail. One alderman stated because the commission had requested more green space in several areas of the development, he believed that the developer adequately addressed commissioners’ concerns.
PAC members also have complained that citizens were not privy to development plans earlier in the planning process, that city officials intentionally hid plans to avoid public scrutiny and have accused officials of violating the Missouri Sunshine Law, which establishes guidelines aimed at promoting public access and transparency.
Maki said his group is very concerned about the city’s conduct during the planning stages.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of that…and most likely going to file a lawsuit,” he said during a telephone interview before the board of aldermen meeting.
PAC members point to an email written by Parente to city aldermen, stating that the body must be careful not to form a quorum during a planned private meeting in order not to violate the open meetings law. However, Parente said Parkville’s city attorney had determined the email did not violate the law. But the PAC disagrees and Missouri statutes state that the Sunshine Law “will apply to groups with less than a quorum when the entity is deliberately attempting to evade the Sunshine Law.”
The PAC recently released a digital advertisement via social media, questioning the city’s methods and motives for approving the development. The ad, which is available through the PAC’s website and Facebook page, had received nearly 9,000 views as of Tuesday afternoon, Maki said. The ad is disseminated to those who live within a 10-mile radius from the center of Parkville. The ad can be viewed at www.abetterparkville.com.
Housh said he believes the PAC will do what it takes to prevent the development.
“They (city leaders) are up against people with money, power and brains,” he said of area homeowners who have donated money to the PAC to be used to fight the development. “They (city officials) have a lot of sleepless nights ahead.”