Some neighbors raising concerns
ome Parkville residents say they are concerned about environmental effects, safety, and the economic impact of a proposed multi-family condominium complex in the upscale Riss Lake community.
Homeowners especially are worried about impacts on the nearby Parkville Nature Sanctuary, which has several miles of well-utilized walking trails in a secluded setting. But a member of the development company said the impact to the area will be minimal and company officials are working to mitigate resident concerns.
Some of the residents indicated they are concerned a friendship between developer Don Julian and Mayor Nan Johnston may put the developer at an unfair advantage in the city’s consideration of the proposal. The Missouri Ethics Commission investigated a contribution made by Julian to the mayor’s previous bid for re-election and found Johnston guilty of accepting a more than $5,000 contribution from Don Julian Builders in violation of campaign finance laws, which prohibit corporations from contributing to campaigns. The mayor was fined for the violation and other actions that violate state law, and the mayor currently is facing an additional Missouri Ethics Commission investigation for other alleged campaign violations.
Melanie Roben, who started a Facebook page on behalf of residents’ concerns titled “People for Parkville Nature and Wildlife,” said that answers provided to resident concerns have been vague. About 100 residents of the lake’s approximately 800 homeowners met with Julian Development officials during a recent Riss Lake Homeowners Association meeting.
“I don’t think he (Don) is used to having to give detailed information and he’s not used to questions,” Roben said, adding that many Riss Lake residents chose to live in the area because of its peaceful, serene natural elements, such as the nature sanctuary.
The concerned citizens submitted a petition, signed by more than 200 lake homeowners and other Parkville residents, to be considered by the Parkville Planning and Zoning Commission at a Sept. 14 meeting, where the development plan is scheduled to be considered.
Several members of the group say they plan to attend the upcoming meeting to voice their concerns. Roben said the group objecting to the plan not only includes some Riss Lake residents but also some other Parkville residents and business owners and those who utilize the nature sanctuary’s walking trails, such as Boy Scout groups and hiking enthusiasts.
The petition alleges the plan will be detrimental to the community and asks city officials to, ideally, reject the proposal, but, at the very least, to reject the request for rezoning, which would allow for buildings taller than three stories, Roben said.
She said as planned, the four buildings, each four stories, will be built on a retaining wall, which will make them appear taller and will not fit aesthetically with the natural surroundings, As proposed, the complex will require rezoning to accommodate the height because current zoning only allows for a maximum of three stories, she said. In addition, she said the plan deviates from the city’s master plan, as described on the city’s website, for the “preservation of open spaces and natural resources and the preservation of community character over the next 20 years.”
Roben said the proposal is too dense and violates the plan’s guidance on the number of units per acre within the city. A call to Parkville Community Development Director Stephen Lachky was not returned by deadline.
Jeff Julian, son of company founder, Don, said during a recent telephone interview that the fact that he and his family all reside in the community should help reassure residents that they would not propose a plan with negative impacts.
“Obviously we love Riss Lake,” said Julian, who, along with his siblings, grew up in the community in addition to living there as adults.
In addition, he said company leaders recently met with about 100 residents at a homeowners’ association meeting to explain the proposal.
“We take this all very seriously,” Julian said and added, “We don’t feel like it’s a negative impact. He added that the company is dedicated to “reducing the footprint” at the site, which addresses residents’ environmental concerns. Worries about the impact to a dam and waterfall inside the sanctuary also are being addressed, Julian said in an emailed statement.
In addition, the “project will be below the dam and the stormwater released will go into the valley below the dam and not affect it in any way.”
Two ponds at the site will provide a necessary spot for run-off “to minimize erosion” and that additional detention “underneath a parking lot” will adequately protect the downstream environment and will “reduce the number of trees that have to be removed to store the water while it dissipates,” Jeff Julian said.
He added that the plan includes these measures, even though “This is a much more costly way of handling stormwater.” Concerns about a dam at the site are being met by Missouri Department of Natural Resource inspections, which occur every two years. “The dam just passed inspection.and was found to be in excellent condition,” Julian wrote. He said “very strict rules associated with stormwater runoff” will provide adequate protection to the natural area.
Homeowners also are worried about the impact of increased traffic on Lakeview Drive, an “already-curvy” roadway leading into and out of the community, Roben said. Drivers using the roadway include less experienced teens. Julian said in an emailed response, that a traffic study is underway and “we plan to abide by the recommendations of the study.”