In comparison to the hours-long meetings of late, the Tuesday, Nov. 6 Parkville board of aldermen meeting passed by quickly — in only 45 minutes.
Within those 45 minutes, the board unanimously passed a series of ordinances paving the way for a massive planned development at the intersection of Interstate 435 and Highway 45. The development — with an overall name of Creekside — include single and multi-family residential housing, hotels, restaurants, retail and a private baseball complex. There was no public comment at the meeting.
On its Facebook page, just minutes after the vote, Citizens for a Better Parkville posted this statement — “We’re disappointed to see the city reverse the recommendations of the PNZ but we’re committed to open government and we hope that over the next few months we can help reverse the culture of backroom government dealings in Parkville. After tonight everyone in the Parkville community will understand that local elections have consequences. This is going to impact all of us. The board of alderman and mayor should know that ignoring the community has political consequences as well. We expect they will understand that clearly by April.”
The development proposals received unanimous preliminary approval from the board of aldermen at a special five-hour meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Citizens for a Better Parkville — an ongoing political action committee — was founded in recent weeks due to concerns about the Creekside development. The group states while it does not oppose development in Parkville, it opposes this particular development proposal and has issued statements questioning the city’s planning and zoning and approval process, accused the board of aldermen of violating the Missouri Sunshine Law and mayor Nan Johnston of ethics violations.
In early October, the city’s planning and zoning commission unanimously approved zoning map amendments and preliminary development plans for the Woods at Creekside, Creekside Village and Creekside Commons. The Woods and Village are single-family home and townhouse developments. Commons includes six turf baseball fields, hotels and restaurants as well as a new cemetery.
Developer Brian Mertz has said the baseball complex would be a privately-operated enterprise attracting competitive league play.
Critics of the proposals have been skeptical of this claim, citing a city-commissioned study on a possible soccer complex. At the time, the study found a soccer complex would not be feasible, leading citizens to wonder what changed and why a baseball complex would be more successful.
The Creekside Industrial component was withdrawn by the developer, pending further clarification of the development plan and connected rezoning applications.
The new Creekside Industrial plan will come before the planning and zoning commission at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 at city hall.
The plans as a whole have drawn criticism from area residents both inside the Parkville city limits and in unincorporated Platte County. In September, a nearly four-hour meeting of the planning and zoning commission was continued until October due to public feedback.
In September, Citizens for a Better Parkville issued a letter from attorney Andrew Alexander. The letter alleges a conflict of interest for Johnston, who received a $500 political donation in 2016 from the developer’s attorney Patricia Jensen. The letter also suggests the board of aldermen violated the Missouri Sunshine Law by holding unposted closed meetings.
Johnston addressed the allegation related to the campaign donation at the board of aldermen meeting last week. She noted the contribution was given in 2016, more than two years prior to submission of the Creekside development plans. She said if the donation had come recently, she would have turned it down.
According to Missouri Ethics Commission filings, Jensen did contribute $500 to Johnston’s election campaign on Feb. 11, 2016. During that campaign, Johnston’s total amended receipts were almost $17,000, with several $500 donations accepted from various sources.
After the bulk of the proposal passed through the planning and zoning commission, Citizens for a Better Parkville launched a petition effort to solidify their opposition to the plans. The group turned in a notarized protest petition, which required the board of aldermen to pass the proposals on a two-thirds instead of a simple majority.
The vote was unanimous, and the board even reversed some conditions set into place by the planning and zoning commission, including a reduction in the number of apartments in the development.
Current area residents, many of whom reside in the Thousand Oaks and Hidden Valley subdivisions, opposed the proposed apartment buildings, citing concerns about increased crime and reduction of property values.
Long-time area resident Clarence Housh spoke out at several of the public meetings and sent a letter to the city stating his concerns.
As owner of a log cabin near Hwy. 45 and Brink-Myer Road, his property could be surrounded by a portion of the Creekside residential development.
In the letter, he asks the city to increase the buffer zone between the development and his property, as well as to increase the total green space and decrease the density within the development.
Mertz and Jensen have stated adjustments have been made due to input from the community, through suggestions made at the planning and zoning meetings and at a meeting held between developers and community members in September.
Critics of the plans say the adjustments were not enough.
Last week, Johnston said city staff would likely soon find themselves responding to a lawsuit contesting the approval.
No suit had been filed as of press time Tuesday.