Before Lake Saint Louis develops a blueprint for its future, it took a snapshot of what it is now and asked residents what they see as its future priorities and challenges.
In June, the city hired a consulting group, i5Group, to develop a comprehensive plan to help maintain and improve the city, and the quality of life it offers, over the next 20 years.
The base price for the plan is $102,000, with additional costs anticipated over a 15-month, four-part development process that is to be guided by a steering committee that includes the mayor, an alderman, a city planning and zoning commission representative and six residents. Four public “open houses” are planned as part of the process.
Along with the city’s overall plan, “sub-area” plans for the older, uptown portion of the city along Interstate 70, including a portion of Lake Saint Louis Boulevard to the main lake dam and land west of the Shoppes at Hawks Ridge, are being developed. i5Group leads the planning team, along with Development Strategies and Shockey Consulting Service. The final plan is due in September 2017.
Since July, the process has included an online community opinion survey, the development of a website [www.MyFutureLakeSaintLouis.com], and gathering of survey data and input on housing, demographics, transportation, land use and economic development, parks and recreation, community facilities, services and overall community perception.
“So far, we’ve really just been listening to residents and stakeholders,” said Steve Ibendahl, principal at i5Group. He added that what they heard will be included in the firm’s recommendations to city leaders. The comprehensive plans ultimately have to be reviewed by the city’s planning and zoning commission and be considered for adoption by the city’s Board of Aldermen. Even if adopted, the plan is not set in stone. “It’s a policy document, not necessarily a regulatory document,” Ibendahl said.
The community survey, which asked basic and specific questions about the city’s quality of life, garnered 1,817 responses – 661 from city residents. Some of its results were discussed at a Nov. 3 steering committee meeting.
In all, 50 percent of respondents cited low crime as the top strength of the community, followed by 42 percent citing a small town feel and a sense of community, and 40 percent indicating the city’s location. Respondents under age 34 cited low crime at 55 percent, good schools at 48 percent and small town feel at 41 percent.
Regarding the three biggest challenges facing the city in the next 20 years, 42 percent of respondents cited lack of retail and dining options, 35 percent indicated keeping a balance of growth and small town feel, and 28 percent cited deteriorating infrastructure. Respondents under age 34 cited lack of retail and dining options [54 percent], traffic congestion [39 percent] and keeping a balance of growth and small town feel [32 percent].
As a place to live, 63 percent rated the city as excellent, 60 percent as an excellent place to raise a family but only 10 percent rated the city as an excellent and 32 percent as a good place to start a business.
How did the city’s quality to life rate compared to 10 years ago — 11 percent of respondents said much better, 23 percent said somewhat better and 24 percent about the same but only seven percent said it was worse. Thirty-three percent of respondents said much better, 44 percent said somewhat and five percent said worse when asked to rate the attractiveness and image of the city compared to surrounding communities.
Seventy percent of respondents rated the appearance of residential property as good, 19 percent rated that appearance as excellent and only 1 percent rated it as poor. Sixty-two percent of respondents rated the appearance of commercial, retail and office property as good and 13 percent as excellent.
Sixty-eight percent of respondents gave a good rating to existing housing options for keeping and attracting a diverse spectrum of residents such as young families, singles and retirees. Sixteen percent rated them excellent, 14 percent rated them as fair and 2 percent as poor.
Thirty-nine percent of respondents rated the overall quality of park and recreation as excellent and 49 percent rated overall quality as good.
Sixty-one percent said parks, trails and amenities were close and there was excellent access. Fifty-five percent of respondents listed additional walking and hiking trails, 38 percent listed maintaining existing facilities and not adding new ones and 30 percent said increasing natural areas as the top three priorities for parks and recreational opportunities in the city.
Respondents under age 34 rated more walking and hiking trails, maintaining existing facilities and new dog parks and water spray features for younger residents as their parks and recreation priorities. More than 90 percent of respondents rated the natural environment in the community as excellent or good.
Fifty-five percent of respondents favored more sidewalks, followed by increased street maintenance [39 percent], more off-road bicycle trails [32 percent], more on-street bicycle facilities [22 percent] and improved intersection crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists [27 percent] as priorities for transportation in the city.
Respondents rated community services and facilities such as libraries [41 percent good], fire and police protection and emergency response [49 percent excellent], street maintenance [55 percent good], trash pickup [55 percent good], healthcare [49 percent good], elementary schools [35 percent good] but a majority had no opinion about high schools, colleges and universities and special education.
The highest percentage of respondents [27 percent] identified The Meadows at Lake Saint Louis shopping center as the “heart” of the city, followed by the main lake [21 percent]. The Lake Saint Louis Community Association Club House and Office on the shores of Lake Sainte Louise, the smaller of the community’s two main lakes, was cited by 19 percent of respondents.
Along with the survey, the planning effort has gathered some new data about the community that also will be part of draft recommendations.
Lake Saint Louis residents’ median household income in 2015 was $65,200 – higher than Wentzville, St. Peters and O’Fallon, but lower than the $76,100 median income in Chesterfield, according to data collected by consultants. Lake Saint Louis housing values in 2015 showed a solidly middle and upper-middle class housing with a lower percentage of homes under $200,000 than St. Charles County and metropolitan St. Louis as a whole, according to data collected. The city has a strong percentage of houses valued from $200,000 to $750,000, but rarely higher.
Having a plan on paper will be unique for the city. Lake Saint Louis, which hasn’t had a plan since it incorporated in 1975, needs planning to maintain its quality of life in a challenging economy, city officials have said.