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Green Park will discuss redevelopment proposal

A commercial and residential redevelopment proposal for 16 acres off Yuma Drive is scheduled to be discussed next week by the Green Park Board of Aldermen.

The Board of Aldermen will discuss the proposal, which may require a change in the city's comprehensive plan, when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, at City Hall, 11137A S. Towne Square.

The redevelopment proposal, which still is conceptual at this point, was presented last week to the city's Planning Commission by the Green Park Chamber of Commerce.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously Sept. 2 to send the proposal to the Board of Aldermen for further discussion.

The proposal calls for purchasing all of the businesses and residences on Yuma Drive and replacing them with a new commercial corridor facing South Lindbergh Boulevard that would include a 24-hour convenience store, a new restaurant, a new Lion's Choice restaurant and a new Fantasy Coachworks building as well as a retail building that would include multiple businesses.

At the rear of the proposed commercial corridor would be the street Yuma Place, which would be extended from the adjacent subdivision where it dead-ends out to Flori Drive. On the other side of the new Yuma Place would be a buffer of town homes facing the commercial corridor on one side and the houses on Marbob Road in Ronnie Hills on the other side.

No developers have been solicited for this plan and a town-hall meeting would be conducted if aldermen decide they want to pursue the redevelopment proposal

However, because all the property on the existing Yuma Drive is zoned residential, a change in the city's comprehensive plan may be required to pursue the redevelopment proposal, according to City Attorney Paul Rost.

But Rost also said that the comprehensive plan may not have to be amended because of a clause that states all property facing Lindbergh Boulevard is considered commercial. With the way the development is structured, the commercial corridor would face Lindbergh Boulevard and the proposed town homes or villa-style condominiums would be adjacent to the new Yuma Place.

Rost said city officials probably would want to look at that area and develop a specific plan for that district and make an amendment to the comprehensive plan.

Green Park Chamber of Commerce President Jim Smoot, who owns Fantasy Coachworks, said safety is one of the primary objectives of the plan.

"Our first goal is to improve the safety of the Ronnie Hills subdivision entrance to meet the current MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) specs," Smoot said. "We would install a traffic light and eliminate the two alley ways, or what they call 'slider streets' behind Fantasy Coachworks."

The plan is meant to ease cut-through traffic issues by making Flori Drive a 50-foot-wide public street with four lanes, comprised of a right-hand turn lane, a left-hand turn lane and two lanes going back and forth at the Lindbergh Boulevard entrance to the street.

Smoot also said that the proposal would increase the property values in the area.

"We want to create a buffer of residential town homes or attached villas to completely separate the commercial corridor from Ronnie Hills, thereby increasing the property values in the Ronnie Hills and Yuma residential areas," he said.

The new commercial corridor with its new businesses would generate more revenue for the city, he said.

"We'd like to eliminate the undesirable uses on Yuma Drive and replace the obsolete building on both Yuma and Lindbergh and, most importantly, I feel what we are trying to accomplish is to create a high return sales tax and capital-improvement tax ... job opportunities, by providing multiple commercial users that offer a diversity of products and services,'' Smoot said.

Businesses on Yuma that would be purchased and re-placed include Wilson Concrete, Trash Taxi and Clayton Hanley Insurance, according to Smoot.

"There are no developers involved in this program. It is a concept that was created by the Chamber of Commerce," Smoot said. "We got a lot of help from Clayton Engineering, a lot of help from the private property owners, and a lot of help from the city telling us what they would like to see."

Smoot told the Call he believes there is a pretty good support base for this project, noting that he has had conversations with city officials about the proposals and has incorporated their feedback into the plan.

The fact that the commission unanimously approved a recommendation to have the Board of Aldermen review the plan is an example of a public display of support for the proposal, he said.

"Virtually every property owner has been talked with and our main goal as the Chamber of Commerce would be to make sure that every property owner be treated fairly based on the value of their property,'' Smoot told the Planning Commission. "Everybody is willing to sell for the correct price. We want to make sure that everybody is obviously reasonable and that is a key to the whole program, but we are not trying to force anybody out of their property.

"We've talked to the owners all along on Yuma Drive. We talked to the owners on Flori Drive; the couple of houses there and the main concern is that they are treated fairly," Smoot said. "So there is no developer coming in and saying: 'Hey listen, we are going to buy you out at whatever the price and you're just going to have to live with that.'

"Our goal as the Chamber of Commerce is to make sure that everything is done fairly. Now when we talked about the major costs to do the public improvements with the sewer work and the street and I assume possibly sidewalks or streetlights or what have you and some of the fill back in here in order to get the street in. We are going to have to have some kind of a program available that would help pay for these public improvements and there are two different programs that I am familiar with," Smoot said.

Besides new streets and a traffic signal, one of the cost issues the city would face is a creek that runs down the edge of the property.

"As you come up to Lindbergh, MoDOT is requiring a four- to six-foot diameter underground pipe to contain this creek," Smoot said. "From Yuma Place down to Mr. Hays' property down at the end there is approximately a 60-foot drop, meaning there is a tremendous amount of landfill, again in that area to do the project correctly," Smoot said.

"Now when they were first designing the project, they said: 'Jim there are two ways you can do this. You can do this the cheap way or you can do it the right way,''' Smoot told commission members.

"The cheap way is to put in a big giant retention pond, you don't have to fill it up, you channel all the water down in here. The correct way to do it, is to get the best use out of the land of course and that's the expensive way to do it. That's the way we are trying to present it to the city. Do it the correct way. So we have the drop, the 60 feet worth of fill that has to go in, to bring this all up to Lindbergh level or close to it. We have the underground culvert that has to go in."

Financing for the public improvements most likely would come from a Transportation Improvement District or a Neighborhood Improvement District.

"... I believe that the Transportation Development District allows the city to impose a quarter-cent sales tax on the development only to help pay for some of the public im-provements," Rost told the Planning Commission.

"The Neighborhood Improvement District would basically take into place, if one were to put in, it just depends on how you drew it up. It could either include the residential or it wouldn't. It probably wouldn't," he said. "So you take the commercial areas then and the Neighborhood Improvement District would be created by the city and would be a special assessment on all the properties in there, almost like a property tax to help pay for any financing for the public improvements such as putting in a light or doing the streets,'' Rost continued.

"... Mainly those are the two that are being used a lot these days to do these public improvements because of the fact that TIF (tax-increment financing) has gone out of style and, frankly, it's not in some circumstances even needed, because all the developer needs is some help with the financing of the public improvements and really isn't looking for any kind of tax subsidy," Rost said.

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