Resident: ‘It’s Nan Johnston’s town’
Some Parkville residents are questioning the naming of officers and board of directors of a recently founded Downtown Parkville Redevelopment Corporation (DPRC), tasked with managing a property tax abatement program for downtown businesses.
The statewide program falls under the auspices of the Missouri Economic Development Corporation and is designed to incentivize improvements to downtown properties. Several months ago, the Parkville Board of Aldermen adopted the program for city use by first declaring the downtown as “blighted.”
But some Parkville residents said the corporation’s officers and board of directors are stacked with an all-too-familiar cast of members, all elected city officials, and city staff. In addition, at least one of the corporation’s members also is a business owner who has applied for tax abatements under a new statewide program.
“The fact that they’re getting tax incentives out of this is not a conflict of interest,” Brett Krause said of Mike Emmick, who owns a downtown business but also is listed as an officer in the group. “I say this sarcastically,” he said.
City documents list the DPRC as having been officially formed in December. In July, Mayor Nan Johnston appointed officers and board of director members, as listed by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. They are: downtown business owner Theresa Bentley, president; Mike Emmick, vice president; Alderman Philip Wassmer, secretary/treasurer.
Parkville resident Elaine Kellerman said she objects to those who were named to lead the redevelopment corporation and would have liked to have seen new faces.
“It should have been more of an open process,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s set up in a transparent way. They (members) are there to rubber-stamp everything.”
Kellerman added she feels as if there’s no way for her to have input into what Parkville becomes. “It’s not my town,” Kellerman said. “It’s Nan Johnston’s town.”
City Administrator Joe Parente did not respond to a phone call or email request for comment.
Downtown business owner Tom Hutsler, who has acted as long-time chairman of the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District (CID), which has a one cent sales tax in downtown, said he was not aware of the formation of the corporation until after it was established. Hutsler said there are definite advantages to boards whose members have differing points of view in lieu of the same group that sits on many city boards.
“Diverse boards always work more favorably,” he said. “They always serve the community better.”
Brian Mertz, owner of Parkville Development and developer of Creekside, a large-scale residential, retail and light industrial development currently under construction at Interstate 435 and Hwy. 45, also is listed as an early applicant for the property tax abatement. Some Parkville residents question whether Mertz, who already has been allotted $350 million in various tax incentives, also should receive this benefit. However, the 353 abatement is for downtown property owned by Mertz.
The Parkville Board of Aldermen was expected to review applications for the tax abatements at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Sept. 1, after deadline for this story.