At mayor’s urging, Crestwood aldermen look for common ground on mall proposal

‘We need to stop cutting bait and start fishing,’ mayor says

By Gloria Lloyd

At the urging of Mayor Jeff Schlink, a divided Crestwood Board of Aldermen began to look last week for ways it can come to agreement on the redevelopment of the Crestwood Court mall.

On May 28, the board voted to reject a measure hiring consulting firm Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, or PGAV, for a $29,000 study to examine the proposal for the new development, called the District at Crestwood.

Centrum, the mall’s owner along with Angelo Gordon Co., proposes an open-air entertainment and retail venue with restaurants, a movie theater, an upscale bowling venue and retail shops. Centrum is requesting public subsidies for the $102 million redevelopment project, including $26.6 million in tax-increment financing, or TIF.

With two previous work sessions scheduled and canceled for lack of a quorum, Schlink moderated as board members used the June 11 meeting as a work session and outlined the pros and cons of Centrum’s proposal.

Two board members, board President Tim Trueblood of Ward 2 and Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, were absent.

Schlink said he will make every effort to get the full board together for a work session in the next two weeks, but he will not hold the work session “indefinitely” to wait for the entire board to be available.

“We need to stop cutting bait and start fishing,” Schlink said. “Right now, we’re divided on fundamental issues. We need to get some of those fundamental issues out of the way.”

As part of the work session, aldermen will work toward suggesting changes to the plan that could yield the six votes that would be necessary to override a potential TIF rejection by the St. Louis County TIF Commission, Schlink said.

The commission likes to see community support of redevelopment plans, Schlink said, and given the board’s current 4-4 divide on Centrum’s plan, the commission’s rejection is a real possibility. Sol Barket and Vic Pildes, of Centrum, contacted Schlink to show their support for a work session, he added.

“We have to look to how we can get six people to agree,” Schlink said. “Let’s let the city drive this a little bit more.”

Centrum is not seeking advice on what tenants to choose for the development, Schlink noted, saying he has heard suggestions ranging from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to IKEA and Bass Pro Shops. The board should focus on suggesting categories of tenants, rather than listing specific names of potential tenants, he added.

The board also discussed its May 28 vote to reject the consulting study by PGAV. At that meeting, the board rejected the planner 4-2 on the bill’s second reading. Two aldermen who had voted in favor of the planner, Ward 4 Alderman Dan Tennessen and Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter, were absent. On the bill’s first reading May 14, it passed 5-4 after Schlink broke a tie.

The PGAV planning study is a precursor to sending the proposed redevelopment project to the St. Louis County TIF Commission. On May 14, Schlink indicated he would break the board’s tie on the condition that the proposal not move immediately to the TIF Commission.

Many residents and several aldermen expressed frustration that the board had not gone forward with the expanded PGAV study, saying that if the board wanted to stop the process at a future point, it would have many opportunities to do so.

“… I feel like this is like a baseball game,” Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach said. “We’re not even at first base. First base is the planner.”

Both May 28 absences were excused, Schlink said, as were Trueblood and Duchild’s absences.

Stadter said she missed the meeting because she had paid for a family trip to Disney World six months ago, before she took office in April. Tennessen said he was in Europe on a trip and wanted to call in to participate and vote in the meeting, but while he could participate, a vote is prohibited by Missouri statute.

“My absence was unfortunately bad timing in respect to my position,” Tennessen said.

Stadter said that after the May 14 meeting she emailed the board prior to the May 28 meeting, asking if the second reading of the PGAV vote could be postponed to the June 11 meeting. Trueblood and Tennessen agreed to the change, as did Schlink, who set the vote for June 11.

An unnamed alderman, however, requested City Administrator Mark Sime to set the vote for May 28, which prompted City Attorney Rob Golterman to rule that the vote should be conducted May 28.

Stadter said she had not seen anything regarding the timing of votes in the City Charter, except that a second reading should be conducted more than a week after a first reading. Golterman clarified that under Robert’s Rules of Order, a bill that does not pass through a second reading in the original meeting is heard at the next available meeting. The vote could have only been postponed, he added, if an alderman had made a motion the night of the May 14 first reading.

“So Robert’s Rules of Order supersedes our charter?” Stadter asked.

The board always has followed Robert’s Rules of Order, Golterman replied, and the only way the matter could be brought back up again after a vote has taken place is if an alderman on the prevailing side made a motion to reconsider the matter.