There were victims at the Harrisonville Board of Aldermen meeting Monday night. About a dozen residents of the Harrisonville Villas development were on hand to watch what they thought was going to be the board voting to increase their rent. These people were victims of half-truths and innuendos brought on by a developer who got one past the city two years ago because of incompetent legal advice and a mayor more interested in arguing with members of his board than getting the truth.
In October 2017, the board defeated a motion to grant a variance to the Harrisonville Villas developers, relieving them of the need to “stub” a collector street into their development. The vote was 4-3, which any student of government, parliamentary procedure or law would note is a failure on an eight-member board. The board was short one member and then-City Attorney John Fairfield, advised the city that four was a majority of seven and the motion passed. It was obvious from the attitude of former-Mayor Brian Hasek that night he resented the vote being challenged. Despite evidence, including articles in the Harrisonville Star, the predecessor of this paper, which quoted a number of officials including the Missouri Municipal League, that five votes were the norm, Hasek used the advice of his hand-picked attorney to ramrod the decision through.
Now that someone is actually looking to clean up some of the messes left by Hasek, his minions, like Alderman David Dickerson, say it’s too late and why should we go back? The reason is there were questions then and there are questions now. The board never approved the variance and the citizens of Harrisonville deserve to have their votes count. The dangerous precedent the variance would set could be endless. Every developer coming to town could agree to anything, but then toward the end site cost overruns and expect the city to concede rules. If denied, the city could be liable for granting something to one developer while denying it to others.
The “its too late” crowd Monday night, would love to see it passed again so that the already shady legacy of the past four years of city government would not be further exposed. And the developer should be ashamed, at the very least, for using her residents as pawns in a scheme. She’s done enough business in cities, she was likely fully aware of the five-vote rule too.
Should the board come back and approve the variance, it will be bad policy, but at least a legal vote. If they don’t pass the ordinance, the developers need to buck up and do what they promised to do in the first place. The developer, Debra Hart, said the only means to remedy the cost would be to increase residents’ rents. We called it BS Monday night and we call it BS now. The residents are the ones who should be least likely to pay. One assumes the developers made a profit on the project, that money could be used. There was an attorney who gave bad advice, one could think he might be accountable. But regardless, scaring a bunch of senior citizens in attempt to bully the board of aldermen was cheap and sleazy. Hart implied these actions might stop her company from future developments in Harrisonville. Based on her actions, we are ok with that.