PITTSBURG — A full house greeted members of the Pittsburg City Commission Tuesday as members of the public filled seats to give their thoughts on items on the agenda.
Two items debated by the commission garnered the majority of the attention — a proposal to rezone and approve a new housing division, Silverback Landing, and the sale of a lot beside 5th Street Bar and Grill.
The Silverback Landing development, located near the Pittsburg State University Baja course, was met with concern by several members of the public. They voiced concerns over the quality of the housing, air and traffic issues, as well as the flow of floodwaters.
Many of the members of the public were from neighboring housing districts. The developer, Mickey Vena, addressed the council over the neighbors’ concerns. He noted the homes would be of high quality, with three car garages, and that in the first phase of the development residents should not see a large increase in traffic.
Residents had concerns over a second planned entrance going through a seperate subdivision. Vena said the second gate would only be used for emergencies in the first phase, and they would continue to look at other options as the project continued.
According to an engineer accompanying Vena, potential floodwaters in the first phase have been addressed, however the public questioned the long-term plans, which include several more houses in phases two and three which would increase the problem with water run off. Vena explained there were more solutions in the works to the problem.
City Commissioner Munsell said “Would it not be the time to that now? Before you build. Not after. I would think you would address the problem now not after. We have to control this water not send it downstream for people who live there to deal with.”
Following further discussion the Commission voted to approve the rezoning, and the Silverback Landing plat. Both votes were four to one with Munsell abstenting.
In the matter of the vacant lot at 113 West 5th street, beside 5th Street Bar the commission heard from both parties wishing to purchase the lot.
Bruce and Kyle Mullen co-owners of 5th Street Bar and Grill appealed to the commission, explaining that they had been in talks to purchase the building for two years, but due to the damage and the requested price it never made good business sense to move forward.
Kyle Mullen explained that the new addition to their building would increase revenue, thus yearly taxes, and he would be adding at least 18 employees. He also noted that his vendors would benefit as well, increasing their taxes as well.
5th Street’s plan included using the lot as an entertainment space as well as a beer garden which would be covered by a roof.
“This is the only place we can build onto our bar, we have been in negotiation for two years to buy this building before it was deemed uninhabitable,” said Kyle Mullen.
Justin Benster, owner of Rise Redevelopment, said that his development will include 8 luxury condos which he estimates will go on sale for approximately $150,000 each.
He stressed that his family is moving to the area, and is not the ‘big bad developer from Boston. “We’re not that big, and we’re not that bad,” he said.
“We’ve lived all over the country,” Benster said. “My wife is from Kansas City. We are looking at moving here because my son is on the autism spectrum, and we would like some stability.”
Benster explained that his condos would possibly have solar options and a green roof and would target young professionals. He said his project will be high quality, and that his company is known for creating good housing options for professionals.
“Quality housing is what we do, we are proud of that. This project will have nice kitchens and hardwood floors.” Benster said.
He also said that his plan does leave room for an outdoor space that 5th Street could rent.
Kyle Mullins explained in a later interview that while he appreciated the gesture the area is not big enough for a beer garden and entertainment space, and would not make financial sense in the long run for the bar.
When questioned by the commission on Rise’s plans if they did not get the building Benster said that Rise was looking into several buildings in the area, and would not pull out of Pittsburg if they were not awarded the sale. Benster also said he would primarily be using local contractors, and that it is a priority to do so in all of his projects.
The city commission voted three to two to go forward with Rise’s proposal, which was the recommendation of the Downtown Advisory board. Commissioners Chenoweth, Johnson, and McNay voted for awarding the sale to Rise, Commissioners Munsell and O’Bryan voted against.
O’Bryan stressed both businesses were important to the area, and that neither was a bad choice.
“I hope everyone understands if we have a plate of apples and a plate of oranges, if we pick the orange it doesn’t mean we hate the apples,” O’Bryan said. “We just thought the orange was a better choice.”