Parkville fire victim speaks her mind

A victim of the fire in downtown Parkville earlier this month spoke to the board of aldermen last week to ask them to change their policy on granting zoning variances.

Main Street resident Soheil Anderson told her story of the Friday, Aug. 3 incident, where the garage near her home caught fire. She said she was awakened that night by light coming through her window only to quickly discover the house next door was on fire. She and her pets were able to escape, but watched from across the street as firefighters were at first unable to stop the fire’s spread.

The story already attracted attention due to concerns that low water pressure slowed the containment of the fire. While that matter is still under investigation by the city, Anderson showed the board pictures of the damage to her property, including a burnt fence, broken window and heat damaged siding.

Anderson said about 20 years ago when the house next door was built, the property owners sought a variance allowing for a scant five-foot setback from the property line. At the time, Anderson said she and her husband opposed it.

“We did not want that tall building five feet from our house... and now here we are,” Anderson said, asking the board to reconsider allowing structures to be built so close together. “Five feet is too close and we have an example here. Next time I may not wake up early enough.”

She also brought up concerns about routine fire hydrant testing, stating she had not seen any tests conducted for several years. Aldermen agreed that they had heard this complaint repeated by many residents and were looking into the testing policy. The city has requested records from the contractor charged with annual hydrant testing.

Director of community development Stephen Lachky updated the board on the efforts to jump-start development in the Interstate 435 and Highway 45 intersection, where the city has been forced to cover the costs of two failed neighborhood improvement districts. He said four preliminary development plans are scheduled to go before the city planning and zoning commission Tuesday, Sept. 11. The plans are of varying uses, ranging from commercial and light industrial to residential developments and athletic fields.

Also at the meeting, the board approved a maintenance and use agreement with Engaged Holdings for use of the baseball fields at English Landing Park. As part of the agreement, Engaged Holdings will provide improvements to the fields and perform some maintenance duties, freeing up city staff for other projects.