Crestwood officials are uncertain what impact a moratorium on redevelopment will have on the city, particularly on five potential redevelopment project areas along Watson Road.
The Board of Aldermen voted last week to withdraw a request for one of those areas, the Watson/Grant Redevelopment Area, establishing a "moratorium on aggressive redevelopment in the city of Crestwood,'' according to Mayor Jim Robertson.
Board members voted 4-1 with one abstention to withdraw the request for proposals for the Watson/Grant Redevelopment Area and establish the moratorium on redevelopment. Voting in favor of the motion were Board of Aldermen President Richard Breeding of Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood, Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe. Opposed was Ward 4 Alderman Tom Fagan. Ward 3 Alderman "Bernie'' Alexander was absent from the meeting, while Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore had to leave the meeting early and was not present for the vote. Ward 2 Alderman Gary Vincent abstained.
As first reported by the Call, City Administrator Don Greer had first proposed the idea of a moratorium on redevelopment in a Sept. 5 memorandum to Robertson and the Board of Aldermen. Besides the moratorium, Greer also proposed one or more forums to begin "an accurate, truthful series of discussions with Crestwood residents'' about redevelopment.
His proposal, he noted, was in response to questions posed by a resident — Jerry Miguel — regarding the proposed redevelopment of the 18.79-acre Watson/Grant Redevelopment Area 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. Members of the Boegeman family repeatedly have told aldermen they will not sell their property and have vowed to fight any efforts to acquire their property through eminent domain.
In his memorandum, Greer also was critical of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance, a private organization that has voiced concerns over city officials' handling of the proposed redevelopment at Watson and Grant roads.
"One would never argue the rights of one desiring to be heard or question the property owner's lack of desire to sell his property,'' Greer wrote. "What I do question is the unethical tactics being used to frighten and mislead the residents of the city of Crestwood. These people are not residents. Their interests, it would appear, are purely economic.''
During the Sept. 9 Board of Aldermen meeting, Robertson, saying he was speaking "to the people of Crestwood,'' read a prepared statement that echoed Greer's call for a moratorium on redevelopment and proposed "interactive seminars'' for residents about redevelopment.
"The most important thing to this administration is your welfare and your concerns for the city. In recent weeks, you have been the victim of a systematic campaign of misinformation apparently intended to confuse and mislead you about the subject of redevelopment,'' Robertson stated.
"We want to discuss the issues related to development with you. At the last Board of Aldermen meeting, a resident (Jerry Miguel) asked us to do just that. His presentation was clear, comprehensive and professional,'' the mayor continued. "Personally, I was both impressed by his presentation and touched by his concerns. Parenthetically I must add, he took the trouble to talk to at least 10 other people in his neighborhood, I presume, about this issue.
"Redevelopment is important to Crestwood, but you, the residents, are more important. You are the people we work for. To clear the air, we believe that we should start over,'' Robertson said, recommending the board consider a moratorium on redevelopment.
Regarding the "interactive seminars'' city officials are proposing, the mayor said, "We will listen and address your concerns, explain why redevelopment is vital to Crestwood, explain how redevelopment works, discuss the options we have, and, most importantly, repair the damage done by the lies you have been told. In future issues of Crestwood Connections, I will also write about these issues.''
In response to a question by LaBore, Robertson said, "The intention is to withdraw to eliminate any argument that there is a cloud on any property of the five parcels in the city that we have identified as potential targets for redevelopment while we go through the interactive seminars and the educational process, where I anticipate that we'll learn a lot from our residents and hopefully they may learn a little bit from us.''
LaBore said, "... One observation. While I cannot speak for all of my colleagues on the board, I sense, however, that they've been in a similar predicament I've been in for a number of months. We have not been aloof from the residents over this matter nor have we been uncommunicative with them. We do not live up here in a vacuum. We have, however, been limited for a number of reasons, some legal and some otherwise, as to how much and how well we can respond to the residents' inquiries regarding development in general or this particular property at Watson and Grant.
"Tonight at least gives the board an opportunity to step back from the process and to talk to the residents and clarify for them some of the most embarrassing misrepresentations against the city that I have heard in 20 years,'' LaBore added.
In response to the city's original request for proposals to redevelop the corner of Watson and Grant roads, the Board of Aldermen had selected Mills Properties Inc. as the preferred developer for the site.
Greer recently issued a new request for proposals to satisfy a recent amendment to a city ordinance regarding the use of urban redevelopment corporations.
The new request for proposals voided the board's selection of Mills as the preferred developer.
During the discussion of the moratorium redevelopment Sept. 9, Fagan said, "I guess was the applicant notified of this?''
Robertson said, "We did our best to do that. I believe Mr. Greer you have more detail than I do.''
Greer said, "If you're referring to Mr. Mills, he's out of the country. We have notified his legal representation.''
Fagan said, "I guess in fairness to him, I would move that we not take a vote on this until the next meeting and ask that he come here and explain his position. I guess I have some concerns, you know, the city has a reputation sometimes and maybe the residents don't believe this, but I hear it from business people that the city's not always been and not necessarily under this administration, but the most friendly to some of the businesses ... I wonder and I
would throw this out, would it be beneficial if we didn't take any action until maybe Mr. Mills' firm has been notified and he has a chance to speak ...''
Robertson noted city officials have done their best to make Mills aware of the situation.
Breeding later said, "I am 100 percent for, behind what we're doing here. The one thing that kind of has me concerned is if so many residents are against this, where are they tonight? And my phone number is published. I was at Savor Crestwood Saturday night. I enjoyed the heck out of that ... Not one resident came up to me and said: 'Oh, stop what you're doing there.' I had so many residents come up to me and say: 'Tell me the truth about that corner.' And I told them and everybody said: 'OK, that sounds good.' And I handed out cards with my phone number. I cannot go door to door. I just frankly don't have the time. But my phone number, our phone numbers, are all published every month in Crestwood Connections. No one's calling saying stop what you're doing at that corner. But I will go along with this RFP withdrawal. I'm all for educating our residents of Crestwood, but frankly they're not calling and complaining or at least talking to me. They're not.''
After the board voted to establish the moratorium, Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance Chairman Kelley Isherwood of Oakville commended the board on its decision.
Isherwood said, "I am totally surprised at your actions tonight, but I commend you on what you're doing. I really do. I think that it's very good for the city of Crestwood that you have forums, let the people speak and I'm totally in agreement with that.''
Isherwood also said residents he has spoken to oppose Mills Properties' proposal to place apartments on the corner of Watson and Grant and residents also are opposed to any use of eminent domain.
Trueblood asked Isherwood about some literature the association had distributed referring to "transient/renters'' as occupants of Mills' proposed apartments.
"Is it true that the current plan is going to be full of transient rentals or renters? That's what you're saying ...,'' Trueblood said.
Isherwood said, "Let me say this in rebuttal ...''
Trueblood said, "... No, no, answer the question yes or no.''
Isherwood said, "The answer is, Mr. Mills' project in Maryland (Heights) ...''
Trueblood said, "No, no, answer here, not Maryland Heights.''
Isherwood said, "... They have 90-day leases ...''
Rising from his seat, Trueblood said, "Excuse me sir, I don't have to listen to you and I won't.''
Robertson pounded his gavel, saying, "This is getting out of order. If you can't have a civil exchange, then I think perhaps we ought to move on.''
Before leaving the Aldermanic Chambers, Trueblood said, "... You have the right to speak, but I have the right not to listen to that.''
Mary Schultz, attorney for the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance and the Crest Development Co., also spoke: "... Again, I would like to reiterate Kelley Isherwood's comments to commend the board's decision. And I'll be brief in my comments ...''
Robertson interjected, "Could you hold just a second? I want to make something very clear to you: The trigger for this was Mr. Miguel, who is a resident of the city of Crestwood, coming up here and making a very cogent, professional and reasoned request on behalf of himself and at least 10 other people who live in the city of Crestwood. Those are the people that we work for ...''
Schultz said, "Whatever your motivation was ...''
Robertson said, "Protecting my residents.''
Schultz then contended that when Greer issued a new request for proposals, it was done solely for the benefit of Mills Properties, citing an Aug. 8 internal memorandum written by Greer.
She said, "... The memo that is dated Aug. 8 is an internal memo, and I'll make this available, shows or underscores that the whole process is for Mills. Well, again, the citizens of Crestwood insist not only on good decisions ...''
Robertson interjected, "Counselor, I'm missing your point here. That RFP has been withdrawn. It's gone.''
Schultz said, "But the suggestion is that it would be reissued after there's been this discussion. I don't know if it's going to be five months ...''
Robertson said, "I haven't heard anybody suggest that. I specifically said we don't know where this is going to come out. We're going to be guided by the interaction of the people that we work for and the interactive seminars and the comments that I receive in response to my Crestwood Connection articles and I have no idea what that might be. I hope something better falls out of the sky. I just don't know ...''