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County approves use of sales tax funds for Riverpointe development

At its first meeting of the new year, St. Charles County Council discussed and debated the pros and cons of the Riverpointe development project and an intergovernmental agreement with St. Charles City for the use of sales tax funds in its construction.

Acting as an extension to the Streets of St. Charles, Riverpointe is slated to cover 1.6 miles of the St. Charles riverfront. Included in the development area is the 160-acre Bangert Island nature area and the Katy Trail.

Riverpointe rendering (Source: City of St. Charles
Riverpointe rendering (Source: City of St. Charles)

St. Charles Economic Development Director Mike Klinghammer, a former member of the County Council, extolled the plan’s benefits, including environmental restoration, economic development, new riverfront attractions and links to existing attractions.

Klinghammer noted that the Riverpointe development plan calls for water quality improvements, and wetlands restoration along the riverfront, and stated that it meets environmental standards set by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. He went on to say that the development would generate a $1.5 billion benefit to the regional economy, bringing 4,000 new permanent jobs and 5,000 temporary construction jobs to the area.

Construction of the site will be undertaken in three phases, with phase one currently underway.

Klinghammer said the plan calls for a 1.6 mile “pike” or midway along the riverfront, with a Ferris wheel, and other attractions. He also noted that the development plan incorporates already existing entities like the Family Arena, the Ameristar Casino and the Katy Trail into a greater riverfront project.

Klinghammer argued that the project had no downsides, and was a positive for the county, its residents and taxpayers.

If the county agrees, the cost of the $28 million project would be borne by the city of St. Charles, St. Charles County and the state.

A concerned citizen responded to Klinghammer’s presentation, arguing that the numbers given were unreliable and overly optimistic. He stated that such projects rarely deliver the good news forecasted, and that environmental degradation, once begun, is nearly impossible to reverse. He also questioned the wisdom of placing a major development in a floodplain. That critique was later echoed by council member Joe Cronin (District 1).

During the council’s discussion of the proposed intergovernmental agreement (Bill 4914 ), Cronin criticized the plan. He said he liked Bangert Island the way it is now, and saw no need for change. He also criticized the entire idea of building in a flood plain, saying the project was a considerable risk and that civic officials in Maryland Heights and the Chesterfield Valley areas could tell some tales about the danger of building public developments on floodplains.

Nancy Schneider, the newly elected vice-chair of the council and the direct council representative of the Riverpointe development area, explained to the council that a negative council vote would not kill the plan since St. Charles City and the state had already given the project the green light and were actively moving ahead with it.

The council approved the agreement 6-1, with Cronin being the only dissenting vote.

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