Members of the St. Charles Comprehensive Plan Task Force met Wednesday night to begin ironing out some of the finer details of a plan officials hope to use to guide development across the city for the next two decades.
The task force’s work is far from over. It is scheduled to meet Oct. 30 to continue the work is began this week, as well as a meeting in November. After that, St. Charles Planning Division Manager Russell Colby said, once the task force is comfortable with the draft plan, there will be a public open house. Then the comprehensive plan would go before the St. Charles Planning Commission for a recommendation, and then there would be a hearing before the City Council.
Wednesday evening’s work focused on tweaking and changing some of the minutiae in the three sub-areas of the overall draft plan. Those sub-areas are downtown St. Charles, the West Gateway and the East Gateway.
Two issues garnered the attention of task force members on Wedmesday — one was downtown parking, particularly along Route 31 and along 1st Street, and the other was the use of the term mixed use and what that means in terms of commercial and residentil development in the West Gateway sub-area of the overall comprehensive plan.
In terms of parking, task force members struggled with what to do along Route 31, including suggestions for parking decks in specific areas along Route 31.
Task force members Betsy Penny and John Rabchuk questioned the idea of specifying certain downtown locations for the development of parking decks in the downtown sub-area plan, particularly along Route 31. Rabchuk suggested any new development along Route 31 needs to be “self-spporting” in terms of parking — meaning the development must provide parking to meet its needs without affecting other downtoewn businesses’ parking needs.
It’s an issue that many communities grapple with, particularly older, established communities whose downtowns developed before car ownership became so widespread. In recent decades, communities have struggled with who is responsible for developing parking areas in congested downtowns. Sometimes, municipal government steps in to develop parking space — whether a lot or a parking deck. The latter is costly.
But when redevelopment occurs — buildings are removed, for example, to make way for something else, communities usually use their zoning ordinances to require developers to include parking as a part of their development plans.
Devin Levigne, of Houseal Lavigne Associates, the consultants the city hired to help guide the process for drawing up the comprehensive plan, suggested along that line with an idea called cache and move parking: A developer who comes in with a plan that would remove, say 20 parking spaces, would be required in the development to not only restore those 20 spaces, but also to provide adequate parking to meet the needs of the development’s employees and patrons.
Levigne’s remarls in that regard also targeted parking needs along 1st Street.
West Gateway Residential Discussion Draws Criticism
The use of the term “mixed use” for development in the West Gateway sub-area along Randall Road sparked its own discussion — and drew concerns from a local developer who has shown interest in building multifamily homes in the area, and one of the leaders of a homeowners group intent upon barring any future development of apartments there.
David Patzelt, president of Sho-Deen, saying the town center is the big elephant in the room, said mixed use in the West Gateway area should include residential components on higher floors of retail development. He also said he does not believe the draft comprehensive plan jibes with the decisions of the St. Charles Planning Commission, which already has addressed such uses.
Levigne said the term mixed use was pulled from the West Gateway sub-area draft because it had drawn such negative reaction from residents.
The idea of mixed use, he said, would allow a commercial development to have residences on upper floors, and West Gateway-area residents have expressed grave misgivings about the development of any more apartment housing on the city’s West Side.
But the idea of a mixed commercial-residential development seemed palatable to some task force members, who wondered if deciding the omit the term “mixed use from the plan” was an over-reaction, and wondered if putting language into the plan that was more precise, or perhaps included a residential desnity range, would be an adequate solution.
Regardless, Vanessa Bell-LaSota, vice president of the Near West Neighborhood Association, expressed her concerns about the direction the task force is taking in a letter to the editor at Patch. Bell-LaSota also is president of the Concerned Coalition for Sensible Spending of St Charles, Inc.
She spoke against changing the plan to include the term mixed use, saying it is what the residents of that area have demanded.
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