Yesterday's public hearing on the Maryland Pointe development drew a packed house that spilled out into the lobby.  Those in favor of the development included, predictably, the developers, several landowners and the Howard Bend Levee District. They were greatly outnumbered by speakers and attendees who oppose the project.

Altogether, 18 speakers had their say over an hour-and-a-half.  Opponents of the project were impressive in their diversity.  Some have lived in Maryland Heights all their lives, others for only a month.  There was Dr. Robert Criss, a professor from Washington University who is a well-known geologist and expert on floodplain development, a mother of two young boys, a retiree, an architect, a business owner, the executive director of the Coalition for the Environment and a mechanic, among others.  People -- young, old, male, female, from all walks of life -- stood at the podium and spoke eloquently about why this development should not be allowed.

Five planning commissioners attended the meeting, which was better than the four that showed up at the first hearing on May 10, but still two members shy of the full Planning Commission.  Because the Commission does not record the meeting or take detailed minutes, it is hard to see how anyone missing these meetings could be fully informed on the community impact of the project or understand the depth of feeling that runs against it.

The city did not present its report on the development's conceptual plan, as was expected, and therefore the Commission took no action on the proposal.  The city has apparently asked for more information from the developer before making their review final.  The Commission left the public hearing open until this new information is submitted and reviewed. 

The next public hearing will most likely be June 28, July 12 or July 26.  Let's use this time to:
-- Educate friends and neighbors on why this development is bad for Maryland Heights;

-- Get more people to sSign our petition; and

-- Call or email your council representatives to let them know how you want them to vote when the time comes.

There is a rumor going around that this development can’t be stopped, but it’s just that:  a RUMOR.  Working together, we CAN stop this development!

At the public hearing tonight, the Planning Commission will take action on the Maryland Pointe development proposed for land next to Creve Coeur Park.  They can give it the red light -- or a green light, or even a yellow light.  If you want this project stopped, you need to step up now.  If you can't come, find someone else who can.

According the the City Planner's review, "The project represents a major change in the anticipated land use approach contained in the Comprehensive Plan. The current Plan advocates a diversity of uses, including office flex, office campus, mixed use, and office distribution, with regional retail being conditionally acceptable. In contrast, the applicant proposes a regional retail project as the core use of the Expressway Planning District. Thus, the Maryland Pointe project has the potential to impact the future land use pattern in a manner not contemplated by the Plan."

Indeed, it has the potential to impact the city's character and overall health for decades to come.

If you plan on speaking tonight -- and we hope you do -- you will need to fill out a speaker's card, which you can download here or get at the meeting.  If you are making prepared remarks, bring a copy to submit into the record as well.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Maryland Heights Government Center, 212 Millwell Drive (at Dorsett Rd.).  See you there!

While the standing-room-only turnout for the May 10 meeting at City Hall was impressive, we'll tell you what was not:  Out of 7 planning commissioners, only four showed up for the predictably high-attendance meeting.

The last time a Planning Commission meeting was so packed was in 2008, when a similar development was proposed in the same area, by essentially the same developers.

Planning commissioners have the responsibility to take a look at the bigger picture and the longer view on major development decisions such as Maryland Pointe.  They have the responsibility to hear all sides of an issue.  And to do that, they need to show up.

Here are the attendance statistics for Maryland Heights Planning Commissioners, from 2008 to the present.  What grade would you give them? 

2011            No. of meetings        No. Attended       Rate
E. Baker                6                                 3                   50%  (current president)
Madden                 6                                  5                   83%
Penberthy             6                                  3                   50%
Wells                    6                                  1                   17%
D. Baker               6                                  5                   83%
Hurd                     6                                  6                  100%
Abrams                 6                                  5                   83%

2010             No. of meetings         No. Attended     Rate
E. Baker             21                                 18                   86%
Caverly              6                                     6                  100%
Germano           1                                     1                  100%
Madden             21                                   18                   86%
Penberthy          21                                  16                   76%
Wells                 21                                   12                   57%
D. Baker            21                                   19                   90%
Hurd                  20                                  19                   95%
Abrams             14                                   13                   93%

2009               No. of meetings        No. Attended     Rate
E. Baker                 19                              18                  95%
Caverly                   19                              17                  89%
Germano                19                              15                  79%
Madden                   19                              16                  84%
Penberthy               19                               13                 68%
Wells                      19                               11                 58%
D. Baker                 19                               15                 79%

2008                No. of meetings      No. Attended    Rate
E. Baker                 20                             19                  95%
Caverly                   20                             20                100%
Germano                20                             16                 80%
Madden                   20                             18                 90%
Penberthy               20                             12                 60%
Wells                      20                              12                 60%
D. Baker                 20                              18                 90%

If you're wondering what the next step is in the fight to oppose the Maryland Pointe development next to Creve Coeur Park, here it is:  Come to the next Maryland Heights Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 24, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center.  The City is going to present its review of the Maryland Pointe plan, including their view of how it does and does not fit into the City's plan for this area.

What is important is that after hearing the report, the Planning Commission can vote "no" to the idea of rezoning this area to allow for Maryland Pointe's retail vision.  Or, they can vote "yes" to the idea of rezoning, and ask the developer to present a more detailed plan.  In other words, give it a green light. 

By all accounts, this is a plan that should be stopped in its tracks.  You need to be there to help make the point.  Come. Speak. 
In case you missed it, the cover story in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch was on the "Bottomland battle," a great article on the issues at play in developing the land in our backyard here in Maryland Heights.

There was standing room only last week as the developer described its plans.  Next Tuesday, May 24, the Planning Commission will vote on giving this project the red light -- STOP -- or the green light to proceed to the next level.

If you are against this proposal, you must come to this meeting and make your voice heard.  If you can't make the meeting, contact the mayor, city planner, and city council members and let them know what you think. 
Better be careful.  In days past, communities thought having a Wal-Mart store was the path to more taxes for the local coffers.  This is not necessarily true.  "...it's now been two years since domestic sales have been a source of growth for the company [Walmart]."  Read more here.

Real growth comes from businesses that add jobs with good wages, not service jobs that just move consumer dollars around the region.  Let's be smart about the development we encourage in Maryland Heights. 
Last Tuesday, May 10, a developer asked the Planning Commission to rezone 191 acres in the Howard Bend floodplain, across from Creve Coeur Park, so it can develop 1.4 million square feet with large retail stores, restaurants, gas stations and the like.

After the developers presented their plan, 10 people spoke to the Planning Commission and an audience of more than 100 people.  None spoke in favor of the development.  If you missed the meeting, the Suburban Journal posted a pretty thorough summary.

The City's Planning Department has reviewed the plan and will present its findings at the next Planning Commission meeting on May 24.  At that meeting, the Commission may vote to reject the proposal or clear it for the next step.

Come to the meeting May 24 and let them know what you think they should do!  
At our monthly Second Saturday community meeting yesterday, Ward 2 Council member Kim Baker and Ward 3 Council member Chuck Caverly discussed development options near Creve Coeur Park with residents.  Caverly spent about a decade on the Planning Commission; while Baker is new to some of the issues, her husband, Darrell Baker, has been a Planning Commissioner at least as far back as 2008. 

What would, for example, a Wal-Mart store in Howard Bend do to businesses along Dorsett and McKelvey?  How do we avoid a new retail center from sucking under business from other parts of Maryland Heights?  Is it possible to attract unique stores, not available elsewhere in the metro area?  Something that adds to the area, rather than just moves business-as-usual around?

Pay close attention to these issues and discussions, as they will affect the future of Maryland Heights as we know it.
This Saturday, May 14th, meet two of our newest City Council representatives face to face at our monthly 2nd Saturdays, drop-in event.

This is a great chance to meet your representatives in an informal setting to talk about whatever you want! Hot topics include the Maryland Pointe redevelopment plan for the Howard Bend floodplain or the tornado clean-up.

Councilwoman Kim Baker (Ward 2) and Councilman Chuck Caverly (Ward 3) will be at the Westport St. Louis Bread Company to answer YOUR questions and listen to YOUR concerns.

This is an open forum for discussion of any issue concerning the city and life in Maryland Heights.

We meet this Saturday, May 14th, at the Westport St. Louis Bread Company from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Feel free to drop in anytime during the 90-minute coffee time with friends and neighbors.
If anyone thought "nobody cares" about development in the Howard Bend floodplain, they are sorely mistaken, as evidenced by the large crowd in attendance at the May 10 public hearing where Marylan Pointe LLC described their vision for a large retail center next to Creve Coeur Park.

An update on that meeting is to come, but in the meantime check out this article from Maryland Heights Patch: http://marylandheights.patch.com/articles/howard-bend-development-proposal-gets-first-public-hearing..
If you missed the meeting, call your City Council representatives to let them know what you think.  If you are against this proposal you've got lots of company -- don't let anyone tell you otherwise.