By MIKE ANTHONY
A draft amendment to the Watson Road Development Plan has been revised by Crestwood city staff, but the company that owns the Creston Center still wants the property excluded from the pro-posal.
Members of the Crestwood Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the revised draft amendment with city staff during a work session last week. Commission members also voted to continue a public hearing on the draft amendment until their April meeting. The public hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, in the Board of Aldermen Chambers at the Crestwood Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive.
The Planning and Zoning Commission primarily is a recommending body. In this case, however, final approval of the proposed amendment to the Watson Road Develop-ment Plan rests with the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The proposed update to the Watson Road Development Plan, which is the city’s comprehensive plan for the Watson Road Commercial District, originally was formulated last year by the city’s planning consultant, Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets. Based on comments made during a public hearing Feb. 2, city staff further revised the proposed amendment.
At the public hearing, commission members requested more information from city staff and the city’s planning consultant after hearing from representatives of two property owners in one of the areas identified as in need of rehabilitation or redevelopment — an 18.79-acre site that is comprised of two parcels at Watson and Grant roads. The larger of the two parcels contains Value City and is owned by Joe Grasso, while the smaller parcel contains the Creston Center and is owned by the Boegeman family’s Crest Development Co.
Mary Schultz of Schultz and Little, an attorney representing the owners of the Creston Center, asked the Planning and Zoning Commission Feb. 2 to remove the building from the proposed amendment, noting that a substantial redevelopment of the center has been ongoing.
Grasso, two attorneys and a real estate broker addressed the commission Feb. 2 about the Value City site, contending the draft amendment’s recommended redevelopment as planned residential with a unified site plan would damage Grasso’s efforts to redevelop the Value City site as a commercial property as well as harm Grasso financially.
The revised proposal presented last week recommends the complete redevelopment of the site — Site D — as a planned mixed-use development with a unified site plan incorporating both parcels. A combination of higher-density residential and non-residential uses would be considered appropriate, the proposal states. The revised proposal also recommends unified site and building design elements as well as integrated pedestrian and vehicular access throughout the site be included in any future development or re-development plan.
In a March 2 letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Schultz acknowledged the change in the staff’s recommendation for the site, but stated “all the many reasons” for excluding the Creston Center from the plan remain.
At the March 2 meeting, Ellen Dailey, the city’s economic development specialist, outlined the revisions made to the plan.
Regarding the revision to planned development mixed use, commission Chairman Matt Green said that based on Dailey’s comments, the change “would open things up. Is that so that there would be greater possibilities for everybody involved — both the city of Crestwood and the present owners and so forth. Is that true?”
Noting that Green was correct, Dailey said the mixed-use recommendation for the site would allow for “greater flexibility” if the site was redeveloped, including such things as building heights, density and landscaping.
“It’s a tool that helps both the developer and also the city,” she said.
Commission member Pat Kapsar voiced concerns about including the Creston Center in the proposed plan against the wishes of the owners.
Noting that John Brancaglione of PGAV concurs with leaving the Creston Center in the plan, Dailey said it should be included to address some of the site issues that remain, including pedestrian and vehicular access and the need for unified site and building design elements.
“… The Creston Center parcel is very closely related to the rest of the property. It doesn’t mean it has to be appropriated or go away if the other parcel is redeveloped in the future,” she said. “It just means that there are certain recommendations that are included in the latest plan for if a redevelopment occurs, that there will be some unification to make sure this gateway to the city” is addressed in terms of access, safety and aesthetics.
Public Works Director Jim Eckrich said, “There’s nothing you’re going to do that is going to stop a developer from wanting to do certain things. What Planning and Zoning as a body’s role is here is what is the best use of the land in our city and where are there problems? Where do we not have the best land use? … The most important thing I think to remember is that this is not a redevelopment plan. It is a land-use plan …”
Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher, the aldermanic liaison to the commission, later said, “Pat, I think the issue at hand here is that if we leave Creston out of this land-use plan, the board’s hands are going to be tied when we discuss future development and that’s not to suggest that we’re going to, but I think it’s the city’s right … or the board’s right and the board, in fact, the board is in view with the need to make sure that our city will survive into the future. And so we don’t have an RFP (request for proposals) out as many people have claimed and I don’t think we, at this point, intend to have one …. But if we decide that something needs to happen on a more grandiose scale or something that would benefit the city, something that would benefit our community, I think we need to have this as part of it. I think that’s where we’re going with it. Is that not what you see?”
Kapsar replied, “That is exactly what I see and I’m not sure I like what I see … I think everybody here knows that I’m probably the biggest fan of Crestwood there is, but I’m not a fan of taking away the individual rights of people …”
Kelleher later said, “… If the Grasso site should be developed and Creston refuses or does not want to participate, whether that be as simple as making the two unified or providing crossaccess agreement easements or even anything as simple as that, I think that gives the board the ability to make that happen. And that may not be what you want to hear, Pat, but I think if we don’t have Cres-ton in, then we don’t have the ability to even pursue it. I think our hands are tied.”
Dailey said, “… Short of that, it really would diminish staff’s ability to recommend … that some of these things take place …”