Draft of Crestwood’s first-ever comprehensive plan unveiled

Commission members want to discuss draft with planner Houseal Lavigne

Residents, elected officials and business owners participated in a visioning workshop earlier this year, including, pictured above, Mayor Gregg Roby, City Planner Adam Jones and resident Robert Miller.

Residents, elected officials and business owners participated in a visioning workshop earlier this year, including, pictured above, Mayor Gregg Roby, City Planner Adam Jones and resident Robert Miller.

By Mike Anthony

A draft of Crestwood’s first-ever comprehensive plan recently was unveiled to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Devin Lavigne, a principal and co-founder of Chicago-based Houseal Lavigne Associates, presented the draft comprehensive plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month. The Board of Aldermen voted in July 2015 to adopt an ordinance hiring Houseal Lavigne to formulate the comprehensive plan at a cost of $89,500.

Crestwood has never had a citywide comprehensive plan, but in the past has utilized the Watson Road Commercial District Plan, also called the Watson Road Corridor Plan, as its comprehensive plan for that area of the city. The plan was created in 1984 through a cooperative effort by city officials and the business community, and amended in 1998, 2005, 2006 and 2015 by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Under state law, the Planning and Zoning Commission adopts the comprehensive plan, not the city’s Board of Aldermen.

In unveiling the draft plan, Lavigne noted that it will be open to public comment, input and revisions as deemed appropriate by the commission. The 141-page document currently has nine chapters, with a 10th regarding implementation of the plan yet to be formulated.

Chapters cover such topics as land use, transportation and mobility, community facilities and infrastructure, parks and open space and community image and identity.

“… If we think about a comprehensive plan, or any type of planning document, it really boils down to three major steps. You need to establish where you are. You need to establish where you’d like to go and then the third step is the plan and how to get there …,” Lavigne said, noting the introduction and community profile of the draft plan outline where the city is today. “The vision represents where we’d like to go and then the rest of the chapters recommend the plan to get there … (Chapter) 10 is forthcoming, based on feedback and input. We’ll help put down the necessary steps, actions, tools available to you to help implement this plan.”

The comprehensive plan is designed to offer long-term guidance for community growth, real-estate development and physical improvement within the city, according to the draft. The plan “is used as a decision-making tool and for you to get out ahead of development proposals, crafting that vision,” Lavigne told the commission.

To gain input for the draft plan, Houseal Lavigne conducted a number of community and business workshops.

“… We had an initiation meeting. We did a lot of outreach at the front end, workshops, key-person interviews. We had a project website,” he said. “We then did an existing-conditions analysis … That’s a whole stand-alone report that’s on file.”

Houseal Lavigne also conducted a visioning workshop in June, which drew about 25 people, including residents, elected and appointed officials and business owners.

Attendees outlined the types of development, projects and improvements they wish to see over the next 15 to 20 years in Crestwood.

Besides highlighting the city’s rich history, participants said they would like to see entrances to the city marked so visitors know they are arriving in Crestwood, easier access to Grant’s Trail, some type of town square or central gathering place for the community and developing an arts and culture hub.

Based on the community outreach, Houseal Lavigne crafted a vision for the city in the draft plan.

“The way this is written, it’s like you’re standing, I guess, in the future and you’re kind of describing what Crestwood is (in) 2035. You’re telling people you’re a hub for cyclists and craft-scale makers across the St. Louis region,” Lavigne said. “You have well-maintained neighborhoods with a wide variety of housing options. The businesses are thriving and attractive. They’re providing quality, well-paying jobs.

“There’s a dynamic transportation system in place that is safe and efficient for all users … a safe place to live and work, thanks to the police and fire protection. The residents have access to parks. You’re drawing visitors from your historical cultural offerings and probably most importantly, a unified city with a strong identity and a strong sense of local pride …”

To help realize that vision, the planning firm also drafted some guiding principles “to target the city’s strengths, to modernize the community sensitively, to take pride in Crestwood for everything, to differentiate this suburb from the others and then to maximize the opportunities — local amenities — Grant’s Farm, Grant’s Trail, the interstate access. Kind of build upon the assets,” he said.

When Lavigne concluded his presentation, some of the Planning and Zoning Commission members said they wanted to discuss the draft plan in greater detail with Lavigne and representatives of his firm.

“… I think we need opportunities to thoughtfully interact with you, the consultants,” said commission member Ken Lange, whose planning experience goes back to 1960. He is a charter member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and a former zoning administrator for St. Louis County.

Lange later said, “The Planning Commission I think is the — at this point — is by far the best accumulation of thoughtful and experienced individuals in the development community, both from a legal perspective, architectural perspective, planning perspective. I think we have some very potential insightful ideas, thoughts, et cetera, to share with you.

“But I just want to make sure we’re going to have those kinds of opportunities and not an overview tonight, which doesn’t give us much chance to do anything.”

Lavigne assured him that would be the case, saying, “We look forward to continue working with you through the public hearing process, making revisions as necessary …”

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Robert Sweeney noted he was not trying to speak for Lange, but said, “I think what Ken is saying is that as a body … it’s 9:30 (p.m.), I mean, I don’t know about everybody else, I worked all day. I had to get yelled at by people.

“We haven’t felt like we’ve had an opportunity to interact with your group in a cohesive way. I mean we’ve had these opportunities to send you emails or to send (City Planner) Adam (Jones) emails. Myself excluded, Ken is right, this is a decent — we have a good body of folks that we think we have some input, and we actually think we’re the people’s voice here …”

Commission members decided to discuss the draft plan with representatives of Houseal Lavigne on Wednesday, Oct. 12.