By Gloria Lloyd
The city of Crestwood hired a familiar company last week to take the lead on rewriting the city zoning code, a project also currently underway in Sunset Hills.
The Board of Aldermen voted 7-1 at its March 27 meeting to hire PGAV to rewrite the code for $58,200, with Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel opposed. That is $23,200 above what was set aside for the project in the budget.
The vote came after a few residents in the audience took issue with the decision to hire PGAV, which has served as a planner for the city since the 1980s, including for the redevelopment of the former mall site.
“I wonder why we keep going back with these people?” resident Robert Miller asked.
In the past, Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach has called for the city to seek a fresh set of eyes when it came to city planning. But this time, he agreed with the decision to hire PGAV.
Of the other companies that submitted proposals, “none had any experience that I saw,” Wallach said.
The city’s zoning code has not been updated since 1989 and does not reflect modern practices that could help pave the way for new economic development, City Administrator Kris Simpson said. With the first citywide Comprehensive Plan adopted last year, the zoning code should be updated to be consistent.
“Updating your zoning code is like basic housekeeping, you should theoretically do it every 10, 15 years,” Simpson said. “In 30 years, a lot has changed both in the city and in general planning practices.”
The city plans to involve the public in the creation of the new zoning code through open houses, workshops, online surveys and meetings, with a final version in 2019.
“We don’t want a zoning code that does things that the community does not like, so we want to hear from the community,” Simpson said.
In the request for proposals, or RFP, the city said it hoped to “promote a style of development that preserves the charm of Crestwood while allowing development that is a ‘win-win’ situation for current residents, new residents, businesses, developers and the city.”
Among other problems, the code focuses on single uses instead of more modern form-based code. That precludes mixed-use development and other more modern planning practices that the city hopes to implement along the Watson Road corridor, including an emphasis on walkability. The current code is “designed to perpetuate suburban-styled development and lacks the ability to achieve context-sensitive design in Crestwood’s evolving neighborhoods and districts,” according to the RFP.
The city also hopes to add more ways to potentially reuse vacant big-box stores that line Watson Road with “adaptive reuse.”
Sign code to change
The city added a $13,000 sign-code revision to the plan after PGAV was selected.
“My concern is whether it’s ethical to change the scope of the RFP after an applicant has already been selected,” resident Martha Duchild said. “Adding the sign code update after PGAV was selected gives the appearance of padding the contract to benefit PGAV.”
Asked by Mayor Gregg Roby if the city had ever changed the scope of work of a project, City Planner Adam Jones said, “I’m sure we have. I can’t recall any that I’ve personally worked on, but I’m sure we do it all the time as part of the city.”
The city frequently changes the scope of work on public-works projects, Simpson noted.