wo key members of Parkville’s Planning and Zoning Commission, who publicly seemed to express frustration that their recommendations regarding a new development were not followed by the board of aldermen, now are claiming that their comments did not signal dissatisfaction.
The zoning board members made the comments during a June 11 meeting of the Parkville Planning and Zoning Commission. A video of the meeting which features the comments is present on the city’s web site.
During their planning and zoning meeting, the two commented extensively about the board of aldermen’s failure to heed their recommendations last fall during early negotiations with the developer of a residential, retail and light industrial development going in at I-435 and Hwy. 45.
During the meeting, commission chairman Dean Katerndahl asked Stephen Lachky, community development director: “Did we do that on the last one and then the board of aldermen…that was another thing they didn’t agree with us on?” he asked Lachky, as if to ask if he remembered accurately.
Lachky affirmed his memory before Katerndahl added, “That doesn’t mean if we recommend the board of aldermen will agree,” he said, throwing up his hands while looking at the commission members.
The commissioners discussed approving the plan contingent on seeing the final development plan after it is amended and before it proceeds to the board of aldermen for approval. But Lachky said that action is not allowable according to city procedure.
At one point, Katerndahl said the necessity for hearing the final plan is made more dire “especially for a plan this size,” referring to the more than 350-acre development at Interstate 435 and Missouri 45.
“I agree. I don’t like blank slates,” Delich said.
“In a manner of basic procedure, providing a preliminary approval for a plan that accidentally becomes a final plan without us seeing what is happening is ineffable to me,” Delich said.
He later added he believes the developer’s plans are not specific enough for the public to grasp the plan. He said he would like “the developer to make a conscientious effort to let the public know what’s going on…that we see documentation that’s accurate enough to tell what’s going on and that (plan) isn’t it,” he said, gesturing to the power point image reflected on the wall.
Katerndahl said, “But we normally have final plans. With all due respect to the board of aldermen, I agree with John and the others,” he said, gesturing to commissioners seated in the room. “That should be the role of the planning commission.”
Katerndahl added, “I think there’s a big difference between a preliminary plan, which is a concept, and a final development plan, which is ‘this is what you’re going to get.’ That’s just my opinion.”
As if acknowledging the aldermen’s inability to recognize the commissioner’s opinions and to signal the end of a more than ten-minute diatribe, Katerndahl added with a chuckle, “We’ve probably beat that horse enough for the evening.”
The full version of the commission meeting can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/341694807. The dialogue regarding the commissioners’ discontent begins at about the 55-minute mark in the video.
But both commissioners insisted, during telephone interviews with The Landmark following the latest planning and zoning meeting, that their comments did not indicate frustration and that the board is not obligated to follow the commission’s recommendations.
“That’s their prerogative. Sometimes my wife thinks I’m angry about something when I’m not,” Delich said.
In a separate telephone interview, Kanterndahl agreed that the board has the final, legal vote on issues and added that the two elected bodies usually agree.
“We’re an advisory board. Ninety-five percent of the time they (aldermen) follow our recommendations,” he said as if to soften his stance. “Once in a while they don’t…we’re not always going to agree.”
However, Katerndahl and Delich said during a telephone interview, that some of the commission’s recommendations were followed, including reducing the density in some apartment buildings and changes to a walking trail and park.
Kanterndahl and Delich both said during telephone interviews following the planning and zoning meeting, that they were not, in fact, frustrated by the board of aldermen’s votes.
The zoning commission had requested that the developer, Brian Mertz of Parkville Development, submit a final development plan to the commission for approval before the proposal advanced to the next level in the city’s approval process, the board of aldermen.
Instead, Mayor Nan Johnston called a special meeting in advance of the board’s regularly scheduled meeting to fast-track the plan. Those opposed to the city’s handling of the development, said this signaled officials’ eagerness to clear the path to the development proceeding as planned.
Jason Maki, a spokesperson for Citizens for a Better Parkville, argued the commission’s recommendation to reduce the density overall by 50 percent was not followed by the Parkville Board of Aldermen.
The citizens’ group has claimed city officials are eager to allow the plan as presented because of their need to rid the city of bond debt on the property. The city has made annual payments on the principal and interest on bonds since inheriting property following a failed development plan more than a decade ago. The developer of that proposed project has been vocal about why he was not able to proceed with the project and blames the city for being uncooperative and putting in place roadblocks to derail his development plans.
Other citizens, including a Parkville home builder who specializes in luxury log homes, has been critical of city officials for not providing more oversight of the development process. Some of his criticisms echo those of the citizens’ group, including city officials offering Mertz too many tax incentives and too much overall density.
During a telephone interview, Delich chalked up objections to the development as typical of homeowners when they learn their serene setting is about to be disrupted by single and multi-family housing and retail establishments.
“A lot of people are initially upset about a lot of development,” he said, adding that human nature dictates “we want everything out there to stay the same.”
He asked, “Would I prefer the property remain nice and green? Of course,” he said, citing negative comments a few years ago from those living near a proposed fast food restaurant at Hwy. 9 and 45. He said that after the business was built and opened, the controversy died as area residents realized the establishment has not led to increased criminal activity in the area.
During the interview, Delich asked what the objections are and when a reporter cited some residents are upset about the aldermen granting thousands in tax incentives, Delich said, “I don’t pay any attention to that. I don’t want it to color my view of the project,” meaning that the role of the planning commission is not to assess funding.
When asked for his opinion as a Parkville resident, Delich, instead, asked questions. “Who is it that’s really behind these objections? What’s the payback? Look for that. Who is this guy, Maki? Where’s he getting his money?”
In addition, Delich expressed confidence in city officials.
“I can’t imagine elected officials are willing to give away the store,” he said. “I’m trusting elected officials” to have the best interest of residents.
When asked if he feared backlash from the mayor or board of aldermen for admitting his frustration about planning and zoning opinions being discounted, Delich said he would not fear reprisal since the planning commission is a volunteer position. Maki offered his take on the commissioner’s comments in an emailed response.
“The words chosen by the chairman and (zoning board) commissioners were not mild superlatives,” he said, emphasizing what he viewed as their frustration. Maki added: “Considering the size and scope of this development, it would seem that the mayor and aldermen should begin taking the planning and zoning board’s counsel seriously versus dismissing them.”