Maplewood council votes down bill to limit house sizes; mayor rejects cronyism claim

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Four out of five of the public comments made at the Maplewood City Council meeting on Tuesday were against a bill to be voted on later in the meeting: an ordinance to limit new home sizes and restrict additions that a current home owner can make to their house.

The council apparently heard the comments and unanimously voted down the measure. The renovation part of the bill was the red flag, said Councilperson Matt Coriell, before voting.

Commenters gave examples. Mary Killian said she wants to age in place in her home, which would require additional space for a family member to move in. Ray Crader said he moved into Maplewood as an unmarried architect, and 30 years later he’s married with two children. This ordinance could force them to move out of Maplewood if they can’t expand, he said.

Another said she appreciated the spirit of the ordinance but that it’s arbitrary: someone living near larger homes could make a larger addition than someone surrounded by smaller homes. She wondered how the calculation would be made and who would make it.

Before the vote several council members spoke, saying the bill needed more work, beginning with Councilperson Eric Page, who said he believes in it but will be voting against it. Others followed. Shawn Faulkingham said he would like to fine tune it. It was voted down 7-0. See the meeting agenda and packet.

See also: Ordinance will preserve neighborhood characteristics, home sizes in Maplewood, and Public comments on housing project and mayoral campaign consume most of Maplewood council meeting

Mayor Nikylan Knapper used her mayor’s comments part of the meeting to rebut resident Patty Nouraie’s comment from the March 12 council meeting, accusing Knapper of cronyism when she hired Amber Withycombe. Knapper called that a lie.

She then went through the hiring process. “We had a resignation of a city manager…our chief of police, I’ll be forever grateful to him, step up and be our interim city manager.” She said [Chief of Police Matt Nighbor] told her and the council that “we were in essentially in dire straights” because the city employees felt low because they didn’t want to go through another long hiring process. She said it caused her and the council to feel alarmed.

“Did we make mistakes? HR mistakes, during that process? Yes, and I have no problem admitting when I make a mistake.” Knapper said it was urgent because the city employees needed leadership. She didn’t say what mistakes were made.

UPDATE: Then deputy mayor, Shawn Faulkingham has responded to 40 South that Knapper was referring to the fact that the council did not publicly post the job from the start, and that the rest of the process was a pretty standard hiring process.

She said she wasn’t part of the process to decide who would decide who would get invitations to interview. Also, “If you look at the votes that took place you will see that I abstained. Every vote we had to hire the city manager we have now, I was not a part of it. To say that I was part of nepotism is not a fact.” She said the facts are in the minutes. “We keep a record of what we do.”

She also said that St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Joe Holleman was wrong when he reported that city manager, Amber Withycombe’s salary is $157,000 a year. “It’s not a fact,” she said, “It’s amazing to me we can have publications that are printing misinformation, and it’s decided if this is in a newspaper it’s true.”

Holleman told 40 South that he obtained Withycombe’s salary through a FOIA request sent to him by Assistant City Manager Anthony Traxler.

Knapper said the truth can be found in the meeting minutes.

Ray Crader tells the city council that the proposed bill would keep him from making a needed addition to his house.
Mayor Nikylan Knapper speaks in the Tuesday meeting, as Councilperson Eric Page listens.

 

 

 

 

28 COMMENTS

  1. I just watched the latest town hall. While I disagree with the mayor and at least some of the council on several issues, what I saw generally was a city leadership that struck me as being well intentioned and good human beings who are trying to make a difference. That is commendable. I was especially proud to see the support for trans gender kids in our community and also incredibly sad and angry to learn of the anti-semitic attacks on our neighbors. I hope whatever the result on April 2nd, our community can come together and support each other despite our differences.

    • Very understandable Jon. Unfortunately many of the comments on this site come from people who think they have everything figured out. So they judge everyone and everything and rarely ever ask “why”. I too hope people can find common ground to improve Maplewood for everyone and understand people have different opinions on how to achieve that.

      • Didn’t you LITERALLY just accuse Barry supporters and Barry himself of being elitist/part of the “haves” rather than “have nots.” Even worse, you based that sweeping statement (I assume) on one or two streets with yard signs…

        Seriously? No–many of us ARE asking “why” and are getting stonewalled. You are not helping your cause/candidate with this stuff.

      • Nonsense like you are trying to sell us exactly why I no longer support Our Mayor. Why questions are not answered. Anyone that thinks different then you is an elitist or to use the Mayors favorite word Racist.

      • Hey Eero,

        I think it’s reasonable to ask questions of the mayor and our council but I agree it’s impossible to come to a conclusion we can be certain about without more information. The optics are not great, and I think her campaign could have done more to address the situation in a way that avoided claims of racism towards those that are asking legitimate questions. That being said, if Mayor Knapper wins reelection I will be rooting for her success and the success of Maplewood as a community.

  2. Just finished watching- I could be wrong about my comments below because in watching virtually, you lose the benefit of body language in not being in person.

    1) I’m pretty sure that Alderman Page asked Alderman Coriell if “they’d (he and Corriell) would be okay” if he voted against an ordinance sponsored by Coriell. Was this a serious question? I watched it three times and couldn’t get a read. It was an odd exchange.

    2) Equally weird is when it appeared that the Mayor questioned Coriell when he suggested he would also be voting no.

    3) The Mayor’s tone seemed unnecessarily angry throughout the meeting, but I don’t know why. It was especially so during the ordinance discussion when she declared something along the lines of, “we didn’t do anything wrong… we were transparent” and the discussion ended.

    My final observation about the meetings that I’ve attended or watched is that they seem overly and uncomfortably concerned about validating each other. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that except it makes me wonder if their need to please one another may hinder their ability to honest and direct. It may also explain why there is rarely any split votes. I’d love to know if there have been ANY votes by the current administration that were split by more than one.

    Again, I acknowledge that in not attending in person, it’s hard to get the full picture of happenings. If anyone that was there has another perspective- I’d welcome that feedback.

    • I have been to them in person and watching virtually for the past year or so. While one expects colleagues to behave amicably, this group seems overly concerned about “hurting feelings’ and/or disappointing another council member (“buddy”) and/or Mayor Knapper. When their first priority should always be communicating honestly and openly with their constituents and putting Maplewood ahead of whoever sits in the seat as mayor. Very unprofessional.

      it’s super weird and super awkward but is a symptom of a much bigger issue which seems to be an unwillingness or inability to show some independent thinking.

      • This is what concerns me the most with the current climate of our local government. It’s all about not making any unfavorable waves. We need to work together on what is best for all citizens in Maplewood. Anything else is toxic.

    • I was there and here is my summary of the meeting: The council members were engaged and listening. They wanted to hear the public forum comments (I was one of the speakers) and they took the feedback to heart and, I believe, changed their minds as a result. That runs contrary to some of what I’ve heard about the council & I was heartened to see that they were open to ideas. I wanted to see for myself rather than take other people’s word for it & I was impressed with them, as a collective. I think it is REALLY important for the public to show up at these meetings with ideas and comments about whatever is proposed, be they in favor or against. But be CONSTRUCTIVE, use examples, help the council make decisions and craft good law and don’t attack them. The council truly seemed to want feedback from the public.

      What I saw from the mayor, however, was disappointing. She questioned the other council members’ decision not to vote ‘yes’ and seemed upset by the fact that it was even being discussed. I saw a bit of what you picked up on (hesitancy to “go against the grain” by the council & anger (and I think, surprise) by the mayor that the proposed ordinance was even being discussed). The “vibe,” for lack of a better word, was a little bit like that of employees contradicting their boss and feeling awkward about it, but doing it anyway because they wanted to do what’s right. Kudos to those on the council willing to think for themselves and maintain their integrity.

      The mayor then used the time allotted for the ‘Mayor’s Report’ to call out a community member by name and call her a liar (that person wasn’t present at the meeting); I found that troubling on many levels. First, just as a human being, I think it’s pretty low to do that when the other person isn’t there to respond. Second, really? That’s part of your mayor’s report? Talk about petty & unprofessional. *Full disclosure, the person she “called out” is my mother so I may have stronger feelings about this than I otherwise would! But seriously, really?

      The mayor then went on to complain about someone who “presents himself as a journalist” making FOIA requests to the city (actually, they aren’t FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests, they are requests under the Sunshine Law, which is the Missouri state equivalent to FOIA). Guess what? That law is in place to make sure that public bodies are held accountable. As a lawyer, the mayor should appreciate that.

      The fact that the mayor would spend her “Mayor’s Report” time complaining about a citizen exercising their legal right to obtain information & calling another person a liar, is pretty telling, in my opinion. That’s my interpretation of what I saw on 3/26/24 at the council meeting. Again, I encourage everyone who feels strongly about what is happening in our community to come to a meeting and get involved. Whatever happens with the mayoral election, I really think the council are composed of people that want to do good and would appreciate CONSTRUCTIVE feedback from their community.

  3. The 3 26 2024 City Council Meeting on YouTube is now available for public viewing.

    I find it interesting, especially toward the end.

    • Mayor Knapper has a knack for twisting things to her advantage/always deflecting blame and she continues to show all of us that regularly. If only she were able to do some self-analysis and employ that in her role, we may have gotten better leadership from her.

  4. I can’t square up the mayor’s statement that she wasn’t part of the process of hiring the new city manager with her remarks at the 12/11/23 city council meeting. She stated that “I didn’t want to see our city go through another two years of not having someone at the helm, and so I went to the council and I said give me a chance. Let me see what I can present to you, and if you don’t like WHO (emphasis mine) I present to you, then we can go about this another way”.
    She is correct however in her statement “To say that I was part of nepotism is not a fact”. Cronyism on the other hand…

    • Repeatedly admitting that you shirked a major role in your job as a councilperson – which is hiring a city manager – isn’t a plus when you are in the midst of running a reelection campaign.

      It’s also a weird move to throw the rest of council under the bus saying you aren’t to blame after 3 years of nonstop reminders that the mayor is the “leader” of the council. You can’t have it both ways – only taking credit where there are successes and shifting the blame to others when things go poorly.

      The council had full control of this hiring process. Perhaps the candidate wasn’t that great a candidate if the mayor couldn’t participate in the council’s own process…

    • Sorry. The remarks from the mayor that I quoted are at approximately 42 minutes, from the 12/12/23 council meeting in which the hiring of the new city manager was approved.

    • Dubya, according to the quotes in this 40 South writeup, she said she wasn’t part of the process *to decide who decides* who got interviews (I believe there were three or four, and it implies recommending names and letting Council decide on who to interview), and she abstained from the votes. One can certainly disagree whether the expedience was warranted, but a sincere reading of the mayor and council’s rationale is that 1)The PD chief was filling in, and staff were strained by this interim period, 2) as a result, they didn’t want to go through the lengthy process (18 months or so?) that it took to find/hire the last one, who barely lasted in the job that long, 3) the Council/mayor referred names of people they thought could do the job, and soon.

      Is that all true? I don’t know, though it’s consistent with what they’ve said and it’s a fair interpretation of their stated rationale, though reasonable people can disagree on whether it was the best approach, even given the constraints.

      For all the frequent pilers-on around this site: As someone who’s trying to discern fact from fiction, genuine intent from spin, from *both* the incumbent and the write-in candidate in this race, I’m just amazed at how much people pushing the write-in candidate ascribe all the worst motives and characteristics (“tyrant,” etc.) to the incumbent, who at minimum has certainly sought to make progress as a member of the BOE and then in the mayoral office. I wish the people pushing the write-in candidate (not all of them, but the many who resort to demonization and exaggerations on every article and FB post) could see how they come off to people trying to soberly sort through information and discern the best way forward for Maplewood. They shout about a “bubble” of people defending the current mayor and saying she can do no wrong, meanwhile they’re shouting out that she can do no right and means nothing but conspiracy and ill will. Not a persuasive tactic, and my goodness it really muddies the debate.

      I don’t expect nor am I trying to change supporters’ votes, but — this goes for both candidates’ supporters — I am asking you to consider how your histrionics sound to undecideds who don’t believe the incumbent nor her predecessor is the Devil Incarnate.

      • The mayor placed her personal agenda ahead of Maplewood. Lack of transparency. Anyone who spoke out against her saw the wrath of her mob or was called a racist, over and over again. She cannot handle anyone who disagrees with her.

        • Bingo ^^^^^ Accountability isn’t “racism” but when you are not used to any accountability and surround yourself with sycophants, I guess it feels that way.

          • We wouldn’t be crying racism if y’all treated literally any other person the way you treat the mayor. Where’s the criticism of the duly elected Council members who are equally responsible for the city manager hiring process?

            Has anybody bothered to reach out to Michael Reese or even considered that he may be at fault in some way?

            When the white dudes are speaking, y’all don’t even ask a question. When the mayor speaks, it’s nothing but vitriol from y’all.

            So, yes, it smacks of classic racism.

            • Travis, I did reach out to Reese but got no reply. I would have loved to have heard back from him. He must have his reasons.

            • When citizens ask questions that are uncomfortable to the Mayor, yes, they are called racists. I would say your comments are part of the divide. I was proud when the mayor was elected. Imo she has some very good qualities. However, from attending council meetings and talking and watching she goes after anyone that disagrees with her. This is not race. This is character & how one conducts themselves and treats others. Imo the mayors problems are self inflicted. As a citizen I still root for her.

  5. Well that but also what seems concerning is that wasn’t this new city manager MRH’s BOE president and then transitioned into her new job right before the district audit came out and it was always my understanding that their most important job is to watch financials yet the district was grossly overspent?

  6. And the most qualified person in the candidate pool just happened to be your good buddy whose hubby was your treasurer. And it’s perfectly acceptable to hire someone with zero experience who hasn’t even finished her degree yet in this area.

    You continue to insult the intelligence of this community.

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