PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Pittsburg City Commission approved the establishment of the Creekside East Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID) and both the preliminary and final plat for the first phase of the planned subdivision Tuesday, despite concerns of area residents about the project and whether the commission was following its own rules.


Several residents of the neighborhood adjacent to where the Creekside East homes are planned to be built in the area north of Deer Run Lane and west of Free Kings Highway, who also attended a Planning Commission meeting the previous day, spoke during the meeting’s public input period, as well as during a public hearing on establishing the RHID.


"Last night when we were here not a single person spoke out against the development per se," said neighborhood resident Mike Zafuta. "We came here trying to get answers and I think we were upset with the process. We wanted clarification and plans, as we haven’t been privy to them prior to last night’s meeting. We had questions about safety, traffic, water flow, and the roadways, and I’ve got to be honest, I came away from here with more concerns than when I came in."


Zafuta and others said that they had no problem with Nate Stahl and Bart Arnett of Turnkey LLC, the developers planning the subdivision, but rather with the city’s procedures — specifically that the city commission was technically not following its own rules in approving both the preliminary and final plat for the project at the same meeting.


"You’ve got rules," said neighborhood resident Michael Marietta. "You should follow the rules. If you don’t, then why do we have these?"


City officials and the developers said the reason for approving both plats at once was to expedite construction on the project.


"Essentially it would put us right in the middle of winter probably starting this" if plans could not be approved at Tuesday’s meeting, Arnett said, "and everybody knows what construction is like in the winter time."


Commissioner Larry Fields, who voted for approving the two plats, also said he wanted to see the project get started.


"I think that projects delayed are projects denied, and we’ve seen it time and time again," he said. "We’re still arguing about Silverback and it’s now two years old and there’s no sticks out of the ground, and I’d like to, you know, see a project get moving actually. You guys are not from, you know, Memphis or Mars. You’re local guys. You’re not going to be doing work in New York CIty or somewhere else. We don’t have to worry about the project not getting done. If you fail, you’re going to fail here locally where you’re at and your families are at and you’re going to have to live with that, but I would like to see the project get started on phase 1."


Commissioner Cheryl Brooks also said the project reminded her of the Silverback Landing RHID, but for different reasons.


"It’s nothing to do with you guys," she said. "It’s déjà vu. I sat during this meeting last night and I swear I could go back 2 and a half years and everything that they were doing and asking, it was the same thing that we went through and I was a part of with Silverback."


Before being elected to the commission last year, Brooks extensively questioned the city’s procedures in approving and funding improvements for the Silverback Landing subdivision, which was approved in 2018 but still has not been built.


Commissioner Chuck Munsell said he understood the time constraints for starting the Creekside East project.


"But our ordinance, I feel, we should follow," he said, "and maybe in the future we won’t have this problem we’re having now."


City Manager Daron Hall said he would have a recommendation for the commission at its next meeting about how the city should potentially revise its ordinance so it will not be breaking its own rules if it approves both a preliminary and final plat at the same meeting.


"It feels to me like we blew that one," Hall said. "I don’t think it was something illegal."


Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan, who voted in favor of approving the plats, said in approving future developments, he has "no issue with following the ordinance, even though we have a legitimate right to vote the way we have done in the past."


Public Works Director Cameron Alden said in the past it has not been uncommon for the city to approve projects with only a single plat, but it has been trying to follow its own rules more closely.


"So you’re seeing more thorough follow-through than what has been done in the past, not to say that we’re 100 percent, because we are asking you to do something again that’s not strictly by those regulations, but it is up to the commission if they would like to allow that."


Munsell said he agreed with the concerned neighbors, and that their concerns were legitimate and had not been addressed at the Planning Commission meeting, even though some might characterize them as not-in-my-backyard issues.


"That’s an easy excuse to use," he said, "but people do have questions."


The commission voted to approve the two plats for the project on a 3-2 vote, with Brooks and Munsell opposed.