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Dardenne Prairie begins comprehensive plan update

Dardenne Prairie officials now have an outline for revising the city’s comprehensive plan that will serve as a roadmap for future development.

This revised plan updates a previous city comprehensive plan adopted in 2013 that includes elements that current elected officials and some residents say have discouraged commercial and residential development. An updated plan is needed to guide what is expected to be significant growth in the city in the next few years, city officials say.

The city’s planning and zoning commission met Feb. 14 at a workshop to continue the process of updating the city’s comprehensive plan. John W. Brancaglione, senior director of planning for PGAV Planners LLC, a consultant hired by the city, discussed the work done so far and presented an outline of the steps to complete the update by September 2018.

Brancaglione noted that the update is being done because of the city’s anticipated growth and changes in the real estate market. The city has more than 300 acres of undeveloped land. City officials also are trying to develop better road access to existing businesses and to developed and undeveloped tracts of land.

A comprehensive plan is a guiding document and the foundation of the city’s zoning and development related ordinances, Brancaglione said. State statutes place the responsibility for developing the plan with local planning and zoning commissions, who adopt it by resolution.  A city’s board of aldermen or city council also is asked to adopt the resolution, though the plan is not a legal document.

Brancaglione also touched on a contentious issue in the existing plan that the city already has tinkered with – the Uptown Zoning District, which includes the Town Square Shopping Center, parcels across the south side of Route 364 and along Technology Drive. Aldermen and Mayor Dave Zucker have said the district has inhibited development. In November 2016, the board adopted a new zoning classification in the Urban Zoning District to encourage new retail development.

Previous city officials latched onto the idea having a civic “core” – a mixed-use area that was seen as a downtown and included small retail stores, apartments and condominiums on small lots. Adopted in 2007, the Uptown Zoning District was included in the city’s current comprehensive plan.

“One of the reasons you haven’t had further interest in commercial development or mixed-use stuff is because no one wants to deal with that,” Brancaglione said.  Urban zoning districts of this type are “pretty much a nightmare.” He added that “most St. Louis area developers will avoid them like the plague.”

Still, city officials may want to determine if there were some design elements in the district that they may want developers to pay attention to, he said.

PGAV Planners has begun reviewing mapping and updating data and text. Brancaglione suggested commissioners study the vacant and undeveloped land in the city and compare that to the existing zoning map. He also said language in the existing plan that discusses the city forming its own police or public works departments was removed because that discussion rests with the aldermen and the mayor.

Monthly meetings will continue until September. In March, the commission may review information and hear a presentation from a real estate and development expert on future market trends.

April will feature a roundtable discussion on plan elements where aldermen may participate. A discussion on developing a future land use plan map is planned is in May. A public discussion in June will gather public input, and a draft comprehensive plan document is scheduled for review in July, followed by a public hearing in August. In September, the commission may adopt the plan by a resolution.

Among other questions to be considered in the updated plan are lot sizes and density of residential developments. The city now requires quarter-acre lots with 10-foot side yard setbacks in its residential zoning. But some new residential developments in the city have included smaller side yards. Developers claim some home buyers want big houses with smaller side yards that require less yard work. But Zucker said larger lots appear to be sold at premium prices and often are the first lots purchased.

Zucker said he favors less dense residential development but the commissioners need to hear about market trends. He said he will try to get several builders to discuss market trends with the commission.

Home sales are paramount. As Brancaglione noted a city can have the greatest comprehensive plan but it has to allow home sales.  “It’s all about money,” he said.

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