On Wednesday, the St Charles Comprehensive Plan Task Force reviewed three subarea plans — East Gateway, Downtown and West Gateway. Mr. David Patzelt (president, Shodeen, Inc) leveled criticism of the wording and content of the three alternative plans for the former St Charles Mall site, property owned by Shodeen. Task Force response to his remarks suggests that the community workshops and input collected since their June 6th appointment carry far less weight than do the comments of one developer.
Based on his criticism of the West Gateway draft, to quote, “I don't see opportunity for residential,” and “it doesn’t allow for residential use above retail,” “I don't want to discuss the number of units, just uses” and the tone of such comments as “since (the Comprehensive Plan) can't prevent anything,” I am concerned that we are taking two steps backward in drafting a plan that can fit this unique area of the city. The Task Force immediately considered adding residential back into the single (of three) scenario that had no residential component. TF members debated redefining the residential option to allow for “all product types” and defining density with a “range.” One member loudly proclaimed that “we all know we need more residential to support retail” (no — that is opinion, and is arguable — I have contrary expert opinion available) and cautioned, “lets’ not lock us in … we all know what happens … politicians (your aldermen) have to vote yes or no, they (meaning we residents) scream at politicians and they fall, one by one,” (referring to the defeat of the Shodeen Towne Center proposal, 2010).
The consultant cautioned, “We cannot let objection to one subarea plan unravel the whole process — we have to find middle ground.” Chairman Anderson assured the plan can be “sandblasted later.” I live in this area — there is no middle ground, for a neighborhood and school community uniquely burdened and defined with the majority of apartments in this city. Residential is not an option, period, on this site. Consistent resident input has made that resoundingly clear.
I am beginning to doubt seriously that it has made an impression that can endure St Charles politics. How are we to see something different and more in line with the neighborhood from the developer, when he brought in a Plan Commission member to recite their 2-year-old findings, faulting the Task Force for not incorporating Plan findings into this document? The very findings that were contrary to what the residents came forward ( we did not scream) to express!
More can be done with this parcel, in its’ unique position along Randall and along Route 38, creating broader revenue streams for the city and better balance for the community and its resources, than can residential, in any form.
Another point, “mixed use” is not defined and limited as encompassing ALL options. Failed mixed use developments all over the U.S. used this very strategy. Industry experts, The Urban Land Institute, (ULI) have reported for years that now, we know how better to adapt this concept to the particulars of the community. Or do we? How quickly you all agreed to broaden the definitions of mixed use on 10/24. To what end, and for whom?
Greater vision and stewardship of the goals and objectives set forth in our Strategic and Comprehensive Plans are required of the Task Force. My impression is that something is driving the return of the "multifamily residential" argument, and transparency is missing from the dialogue. The Task Force needs to revisit the data they collected by the process they initiated ( and we taxpayers paid for) and question what really drives this document and it's revisions. Vague assurances from the Chairman, that the process is not over and not “set in stone”are no guarantee of equity. This process is incremental, make no mistake. Momentum seems to be building toward opening up development to more multifamily residential, more rental. Respect is lacking for we residents who strive to understand the process, do our due diligence to get the facts, create meaningful,continued dialogue with our city government. I, for one, do not “scream at our politicians.”
Vice president, Near West Neighborhood Association
President, Concerned Coalition for Sensible Spending of St Charles, Inc.
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