rift between a downtown Parkville business owner and the city’s mayor has again de-railed a proposed slate of officers for a committee designed to enhance and support downtown businesses.
The Parkville Board of Aldermen and mayor have rejected a slate for the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District (POTMCID). The slate includes Tom Hutsler, who owns several downtown properties and is a founding member of the CID. He also serves as the president of the CID board of directors.
Hutsler claims the fact the board of aldermen will not approve the slate is the result of a “personal vendetta.”
Mayor Nan Johnston stated during a videotaped board of aldermen meeting this past fall that Hutsler was encouraging property owners to oppose a project designed to re-configure Hwy. 9 and creation of a CID along Hwy. 9, which cuts through Parkville.
In other statements, Johnston also has accused Hutsler of bad business practices.
Hutsler stated during a telephone interview that he objects not to the creation of a Hwy. 9 CID, but, instead to the mayor and board of aldermen’s involvement and control of the group.
Instead, he would like the district board comprised and controlled by property owners in the district. His desire is based on the downtown CID’s experiences with not garnering support for their board.
“They keep trying to find excuses not to have me serve on this CID,” Hutsler said, adding that Parkville CIDs have become too political.
“Mayor Nan Johnston likes to control,” he said. “She’s what you call a control freak—she likes to control everything. But she can’t control me and she can’t control our CID board and that upsets her.”
In an emailed response, Johnston said their dispute is not about control.
“The (board of aldermen) has no desire to control the individual property owners in the downtown area, however, we have every interest in ensuring the downtown thrives,” Johnston’s email stated, adding that many of those who sit on the CID have close ties to Hutsler.
“We feel that control of the POTMCID by more businesses and property owners within the district that do not rent from or who do not have business ties to Mr. Hutsler ensures a fairer representation of all owners in the district.”
Johnston said she met last week with Hutsler, Main Street Parkville Association President Mike Carney, alderman Dave Rittman and CID District Manager Carol Kuhns to try to resolve the dispute.
“It’s my understanding that they will be proposing some changes to be considered by the board of aldermen,” Johnston’s email stated. “Since this will take time to firm up, it was mutually agreed to continue rejecting the slates until the time the details can be worked out…”
The downtown CID was formed in 2006 and Hutsler was a founding member.
About half of the CID’s nine-member slate is up for approval by the mayor and board of aldermen every two years, Hutsler said.
The board has failed to approve the current slate, with Hutsler listed as president of the board of directors, for more than two years.
When asked why the group continues to submit the slate with Hutsler’s name, current vice president Kenneth Wilson said it’s because Hutsler does a good job.
“He devotes a lot of time to it,” Wilson said during a telephone interview.
Hutsler does a lot of tasks to improve/maintain the downtown area, including recent snow removal and other beautification projects, down to simple tasks such as watering plants.
“He’s voted back in because he’s committed to it,” Wilson said.
Kuhns agreed with Wilson’s assessment of Hutsler during a telephone interview. “He has the best interests of Parkville,” she said.
In her emailed statement, Johnston said she and the board of aldermen believe that the CID’s decisions might be influenced by the fact that Hutsler owns many downtown properties and is a landlord to many CID members.
Wilson objected to the idea of Hutsler having control of the group.
“He certainly does not speak for all of us (downtown CID members). We’re all independent thinkers.”
As for Hutsler’s alleged improprieties mentioned by Johnston, Wilson said, “I’ve never seen it, never heard it, never witnessed it.”
Kuhns agreed. “We feel no pressure to do anything, anyway,” she said. “People on our board talk openly about what we want. I’m not saying it’s all Nan’s fault,” she said, adding that the conflict is part of a bigger issue.
Kuhns, who is a part-time paid employee of the downtown CID, said the group works with city leaders on various projects and has awarded several grants to the city for improvement projects.
“I hope we can move past the impasse,” she said, adding, “I’m hoping cooler heads at City Hall will prevail. It’s time to move forward…for the betterment of downtown.”