Lack of comprehensive plan ‘major roadblock’ to mall redevelopment

To the editor:

“The redevelopment plan conforms to the comprehensive plan for the development of the municipality as a whole” — this requirement, taken from Missouri tax-increment financing, or TIF, statutes, represents a major roadblock in the race to place the Crestwood mall redevelopment plans in front of a TIF Commission.

The reason? Crestwood does not have a comprehensive plan.

Without a legitimate comprehensive plan for Crestwood as a whole, any TIF Commission Crestwood convenes would be unable to evaluate proposed redevelopment projects to ensure they conform to the city’s vision for its land use. In October, the city acknowledged and sought to correct this shortcoming by sending out a request for proposals, or RFP, for a planner to develop its first comprehensive plan.

In his Oct. 8 memo to aldermen, City Administrator Mark Sime wrote, “The Planning and Zoning Commission will take point on the planning process. The P&Z Commission will oversee the development of the plan and approve the plan. There will be involvement of the elected officials and the residents along with staff and the commission.” He also quoted a former municipal official, who stated, “… It is where the city needs to start prior to moving ahead with redevelopment projects. The city needs to know how the redevelopment will fit into the plans the city has laid out for its future. This will also bring the city into compliance with state statutes.”

The city received a few proposals by the Nov. 21 deadline, and promptly did — nothing.

Fast forward to the July 1 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, where the commissioners were asked to approve an amendment to the city’s Watson Road Corridor Plan, or WRCP. Tucked into the resolution approving the amendment was an official designation of the WRCP as the “comprehensive plan” for the area.

In this attempted sleight of hand, the administration was using the commission to rechristen a 30-year-old plan with limited boundaries as the city’s comprehensive vision for the future.

The city made the last-minute substitution of the WRCP for the anticipated full comprehensive plan as part of a strategy to place the decision on TIF for the mall redevelopment before the TIF Commission without having to wait the year it would take for a legitimate comprehensive plan to be completed.

In carrying out this scheme, Mayor Gregg Roby’s administration has treated the Planning and Zoning Commission as a means to an end, asking it to suspend all ethical and legal consideration on this issue for political, rather than municipal, purposes. Instead of “taking point” on the planning and zoning process, the commission has been treated as an afterthought, acknowledging at the July 1 meeting that the city never provided the commission as a whole with the responses to the October comprehensive planner RFP, let alone consulted members on its drafting.

Thankfully, the Planning and Zoning Commission recognized that the WRCP can in no way be considered a comprehensive plan, and tabled voting on the amendment until its next meeting. I hope commission members have the resolve to reject the administration’s attempts to co-opt them into a decision that compromises their fiduciary duties.