Controversial development plans on hold for further P&Z, public review

After a three-and-one-half hour planning and zoning meeting in Parkville last week, residents and commission members alike will have another month to consider four massive development proposals for the western end of the city.

The meeting, held Tuesday, Sept. 11, was a standing-room-only affair with more than a dozen residents speaking out, mostly with concerns about transparency and the planning process. With planning and zoning commission vice-chair Keith Cary presiding due to the absence of chair Dean Katerndahl, two other commissioners were also absent from the meeting — Walt Lane and John Delich.

By the end of the evening and only halfway through the planned agenda, the commission voted to continue discussions at the Tuesday, Oct. 9 meeting. No votes were taken on any of the proposed development plans.

The preliminary development plans include a six-field baseball complex which developers say could make Parkville a destination for teams from across the Kansas City metro area — and the Midwest. In addition, the plans contain supporting hotels and restaurants, banks, retail and both single- and multi-family residential housing.

Since the development proposals were announced, a closed Facebook group with more than 600 members — Concerned Citizens of Parkville and Platte County — has formed, founded by Misty Snodgrass, who also spoke at the meeting.

Additionally, at the Tuesday, Sept. 4 board of aldermen meeting, the board discussed procedures for the upcoming planning and zoning meeting and how to confirm the addresses of those who might speak out. They discussed the legalities involved in notifying adjacent property owners of the development proposals, and how much consideration should be given to the wishes of those outside of the legal minimum distance.

In response, just hours before the Sept. 11 meeting, the city received a letter from attorney Andrew Alexander outlining concerns that the “Parkville board of aldermen and zoning commission intend to limit or discount public testimony on these plans and related zoning amendments delivered by interested persons who are not Parkville residents.”

The letter cites several Missouri court decisions finding that those outside of city limits can be affected by developments within city limits and therefore can weigh in on those proposals.

Cary addressed this letter during the opening minutes of the Sept. 11 meeting, stating that all in attendance could have a say.

“Anyone who has signed up to speak will be allowed to speak under the same rules and procedures, without regard to where you live,” Cary said. “All testimony here tonight will be received whether it is by residents or non-residents and it will be considered as part of the decision-making process.”

Director of community development Stephen Lachky presented the history of the area and the projects. The city annexed the land from Platte County in 2000, under then-mayor Bill Quitmeier — in part to beat the City of Kansas City to an annexation that could leave Parkville landlocked. Various development plans were proposed over the years since the annexation and in 2006 two neighborhood improvement districts (NIDs) were formed to build and extend sewer lines and roads.

“Due to a variety of factors, including the economic recession in 2008, private development hasn’t occurred according to the original vision,” Lachky said. “Since this time, with the NIDs and the recession, development has stalled.”

The city and the Bank of Blue Valley took over ownership of many of the properties as the original owners defaulted. A few plans have been proposed since then, but nothing much materialized until the city issued a request for development proposals in 2016. Other ideas have been floated, including the potential construction of a destination soccer facility.

Patricia Jensen of Kansas City’s White Goss Law Firm presented the development plans on behalf of developers. Members of the audience wishing to speak during the public hearing were asked to take an oath swearing to tell the truth, as were the developers and their representatives who presented the plans.

The development team includes Brian Mertz, developer of the Chapel Ridge subdivision, which was also a highly controversial and much-opposed proposal when it came before the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission about five years ago.

Snodgrass, a resident of Thousand Oaks in unincorporated Platte County, said she submitted written comments to the commission and a list of 22 questions about the proposals.

Primary among her concerns was the city planning staff’s assertion that the development plans were in line with the city’s master plan. Snodgrass said she did not believe that was the case, and cited the city’s own study considering construction of a soccer facility.

At the time, the soccer facility was determined to be unfeasible, but Snodgrass noted that two years later a baseball facility was feasible. She wondered what had changed and said she had received no answer.

Cary said many of her submitted questions were valid and deserving of answers, which he said hoped would come during the hearing process. Some, however, were outside the jurisdiction of the planning and zoning commission.

Snodgrass was also critical of the comments made during the Sept. 4 board of aldermen meeting, saying so far this has been a “closed and disrespectful process.”

Brink-Meyer Road resident Clarence Housh was irritated he had not been contacted about the developments, which encircle the property where he has lived for more than a decade.

“It’s pretty disingenuous to just build the whole thing around my property and never say a word,” Housh said, also questioning the quality of the planned development.

Also, he raised concerns about historical flooding in the area and the probability that more floods could come in the future.

Floods are what brought resident Jason Maki, who relocated to Parkville last year after Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys. Maki delivered a petition signed by nearly 600 people to the city.

After hearing residents speak for nearly two hours, Cary suggested breaking for the night and reconvening at the October meeting.

Jensen protested the move, saying it placed a burden on her client, who needs to stick to a schedule.

Cary said while he understood that, the public good came first.

“As a commission we need to be able to balance the competing interests to do what is in the best interest of the city of Parkville,” Cary said.