any downtown Parkville business owners continue to be concerned about a lack of parking in the historic district and wonder why the city isn’t making faster progress of cleaning up following Missouri River flooding this past spring.
In a meeting last week, city administrator Joe Parente and community development director Stephen Lachky and three aldermen met with more than 25 business/property owners and managers.
Parente told meeting attendees the city “is looking at improvements for changes we’re talking about making in downtown Parkville” and added that city staff would like to enhance communications with the group.
He also said the meeting was a chance for business proprietors to voice concerns about issues that ultimately impact their businesses’ bottom line. Parente said city officials are preparing to examine the city’s budget and now is the time to prioritize projects for the coming year. He said the goal of the meeting was to take ideas back to city officials in prioritizing improvement plans.
Alderman Tina Welch said city officials have discussed a plan to eventually construct a downtown visitors’ center, with a historical museum and public restrooms. Alderman Phillip Wassmer added that downtown has experienced an “exciting bit of growth,” but warned progress also creates new dilemmas, such as streets crowded with trucks making deliveries to the increased number of businesses downtown.
During the open forum section of the meeting, a few business owners asked why some lack of parking can’t be solved by allowing parking at the nearby Farmer’s Market area, where parking spaces are only used on Wednesdays and Saturdays during produce growing season.
Tom Hutsler, downtown property owner, told the group Parkville is “the only city I’m aware of that doesn’t allow parking” in the downtown farmer’s market area.”
During a telephone interview after the meeting, Parente said the city could violate health department guidelines by selling food in an area where car fluids had potentially leaked. In addition, the area is not big enough to allow for very many parking spaces, given the city’s codes which mandate a two-way driving path in and out of parking areas.
Some attendees said more parking could be added in an area with only a few parking spaces that are off-set by planter boxes and trees. Because the city has struggled to replace the trees when they die, the boxes and trees could be eliminated, freeing up a few more spaces, they said.
Parente later agreed that the plan is feasible. He added that a recent voter-approved parks sales taxes also could be used to add a few spaces in the park south of McAfee.
However, Parente said during the later interview that he doesn’t believe downtown lacks adequate parking. A city lot south of the railroad tracks can accommodate more than 150 cars, which is adequate most of the time. Exceptions are special events, such as the city’s Fourth of July celebration and annual Parkville Days festival.
“I don’t quite understand the point,” he said. “It’s not like it (the city lot) is so crammed full.”
During the meeting, Hutsler said he’s also frustrated by how long the city has spent on Missouri River clean-up following floods this past spring and that the process already should have been completed. But city officials said the clean-up is difficult and tedious.
“We’re making an effort—believe me,” Parente said.
Parente said a high wall of silt on the southern border has hampered clean up. Wassmer added the project should be completed “in the next month or two.” Attendees also mentioned concern about safety in the busy, high-trafficked area. A recent accident in which a truck struck a pedestrian sparked the concern, they said.
Police Chief Kevin Chrisman said after the meeting the pedestrian had only a minor injury and refused medical treatment but agreed the incident raises safety concerns. The incident marks the first such accident he can recall during his decade-long tenure as head of the department but it warrants examination.
“We were lucky, quite lucky,” he said.
Chrisman made other comments after the meeting, referring to the area’s higher building occupancy.
“We’ve seen a little boom downtown…which is a good thing,” he said. He noted how the area’s high traffic volume, which combines residential traffic during rush hour due to recent subdivision development, coupled with the number of daily delivery trucks dropping off at area businesses, leads to safety issues.
In fact during the meeting, a city truck was in the process of applying new street striping downtown, which is designed to make directions clearer, Parente said. Parente told the group that faded lines were “an immediate concern.”
Chrisman added that the traffic, combined with old buildings, which are located close to the narrow streets, which date to an era when vehicles were smaller, creates a challenge.
“You can’t change infrastructure,” he said.
However, the fact that downtown traffic typically moves at a very slow speed helps keep accidents at a minimum, Chrisman said during the later interview. He said areas where large delivery trucks stop to drop off merchandise or food is a problem because it temporarily reduces street traffic to one lane. He said the city’s police force, which consists of 17 sworn officers, maintains a fairly steady presence in the area.
Chrisman said: “We’re down there as much as we can be to try to be a deterrent.”