Ball field discussion getting contentious
Some Parkville residents are concerned about having a voice as city leaders plan the development and expansion of youth baseball fields in a Platte Landing Park near a federally designated wildlife habitat.
At least one resident who is concerned about the scope of the project, its effects on area migratory birds and lifestyle issues such as traffic flow and congestion, reminded city officials in writing the public wants to be included in the planning process and is seeking details about public involvement.
But statements about public input are causing some members of the public to question whether they will be invited to participate in the planning process, his emails stated.
Jim Sfetko, a Parkville resident for the past 31 years, said he remains concerned about the planned project’s impact on wildlife which utilize the adjoining wetlands during their annual migration. The U.S. Corps of Engineers established the area as a wetland in 2019. Wildlife experts have said the area plays a vital role in helping migratory birds.
In an email to Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston, Sfetko said he doesn’t believe those who are guiding the project are listening to the views of the aldermen who represent constituents in the area of the ballpark (Tina Welch and Philip Wassmer) and questioned why, as heard in comments during last week’s board of aldermen meeting.
“Is there something or someone that is influencing your opinion? he asked in the email.
The communication is the latest development concerning the ball fields and their impact on area wildlife. In earlier meetings, the board discussed the possibility of adding lights for night-time play, but appeared to drop lights from consideration after residents complained that wildlife experts had said the lights would interfere too much with birds’ navigation and would lead some to die.
In an email to city administrator Joe Parente and public works director Alysen Abel, the mayor asked for “more clarity on the process and when exactly the residents will have input. Not sure what to tell them after what appears to be conflicting information,” her email stated.
During the June 2 meeting, Welch asked Abel if city leaders plan to involve citizens in the planning process, especially since “it’s been several months” (since it last was discussed at a board meeting) and that’s something that’s obviously very important to people right now,” she said.
Abel answered that the design process will not include “charrettes,” a public planning process. Parente stated the city will hire an outside firm to “educate” the public about plans for the fields.
But Alderman Philip Wassmer said residents want more than education and they’re interested in “input.”
“I am very disappointed with the City of Parkville administration,” Sfetko said in an additional email, this time addressed to the board and other city officials. ‘They’ are not doing what you said would happen by having the public included during the design phase.”
Sfetko said the “city administrator did nothing to reassure residents that the city has their interest at heart. Instead, it added to the lack of trust,” he wrote in his email.
When contacted by The Landmark, Parente, the city administrator, initially said the public will be “educated” throughout the design process and added that there’s still time for public input and that the ballpark’s design will change as the process advances. When asked if the public would be involved in planning, he stated the public will have a chance to participate.
“Nothing’s set in stone,” he said, adding that officials are waiting to learn if the city is awarded a $1 million Platte County grant application to help fund the project. If awarded, the city would provide $3 million to the project, which will be drawn from a 2019 voter-approved city half cent sales tax.
Sfetko said the wildlife habitat could be affected by other factors that perhaps have not yet been considered. These include run-off following baseball field treatments and the size of the fields, which will be overlaid with soccer fields and, due to their size, may encroach on the habitat area, he said.
“Be transparent and allow residents to contribute to the design,” he said in his email, adding that the process should be done “without ‘mortgaging the future of Parkville.”