PicturePhoto Credit: Larry Williams
The 20th anniversary of the Great Flood of '93 is getting some attention this month, including this editorial in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on the current state of development in floodplains.

Our favorite snippet from the article is this: '“We said, if you don’t need to develop in a flood plain, don’t do it,” retired Brig. Gen. Gerald Galloway told the Post-Dispatch in 2005, when, more than a decade after the Great Flood, it was clear his report was being ignored.'  Read the full Galloway report, written by 30 of the nation's top authorities on floodplain management, to see how close we came to common sense and how far we've strayed.

Developers and politicians still yearn to develop floodplain land into taxable commercial property. Look no further than the Maryland Heights Comprehensive Plan, which envisions almost every kind of development except single family homes -- although apartments and nursing homes are welcome -- in the floodplain between the Missouri River and Creve Coeur Park.

We need a different vision for how floodplains can be used productively to benefit the surrounding natural and human communities.  Rather than chasing tax dollars on new commercial properties, cities should be protecting taxpayer dollars from future bailouts of properties that are doomed to flood again and again.

Rather than wait for developers to submit their own self-serving ideas, the Maryland Heights City Council members and the Planning Commission should be leading the charge on how to sustainably develop this unique land resource.

There will be competition for City Council seats in Wards 1 and 2 in Maryland Heights.  Who sits on City Council has a lot to say about the direction of our city, so know your ward and know your candidates!  

See the candidates on Patch.com.
Find out which ward you're in.

Mark your calendar to vote on April 2!
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%

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.
Last week, the Maryland Heights City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract with Ultimate Soccer Arenas of Missouri to lease Sportport, the facility located at Sportport Drive and Maryland Heights Expressway in the Howard Bend floodplain.  We applaud this vote because:
  • Using land in Howard Bend for recreational purposes makes perfect sense.  Land used for recreation is less expensive -- and easier -- to restore than other commercial properties after the inevitable flooding that occurs in a floodplain.  We believe more opportunities should be sought to use the land in this area for recreation.
  • This kind of sports facility requires a lot of land, which is not available elsewhere in Maryland Heights.  In fact, it's not readily available anywhere else in St. Louis County.  Thus, this is a wise use of land resources for our city and region.
  • This type of development has a low impact on the character of the area.  Soccer fields do not loom many stories high, sprout smoke stacks, or generate the traffic of large-scale commercial developments.
Read more about the city's agreement here.  If you like this move by the city, you can let your City Council representatives know with just two clicks!
We invited newly elected Ward 3 Councilman Chuck Caverly to join us at the St. Louis Bread Company at Westport where we hold our monthly community meeting called ‘Second Saturdays.’  On arrival, he promised us a good 30 minutes.  An hour later, as we all extracted ourselves from the lively discussion to go on with our day, he said he looked forward to coming back.  Such is the pull of the Second Saturdays.

Caverly shared his motivation for running, his experience on the Planning Commission (where he has served 10-12 years), and some of his priorities as councilman.  Importantly, we think, one of his priorities is listening.  “Sometimes, people just want to be heard,” said Caverly.  “We have a great system [of government] where people have the opportunity to show up and tell the Planning Commission or City Council ‘Here’s what I think about that.’  And that’s great, we should be listening to everyone.”

We couldn’t agree more.  We look forward to hearing more from Councilman Caverly, and to being heard – whether it’s at Second Saturdays, the Planning Commission, or City Council.

We plan to invite other members of Maryland Heights’ government to stop by for open discussion at Second Saturdays. Please come and meet neighbors and special guests at the next Second Saturdays meeting on May 8, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., at the Westport St. Louis Bread Company.  See you there.
It has come to our attention that a letter sent by candidate Ken Gold to constituents in Ward 1 on Monday contains a number of falsehoods regarding Maryland Heights Residents for Responsible Growth and our activities on behalf of local residents. So let's set the record straight:

·         We are an independent organization led by residents of Maryland Heights. We are not outsiders or non-residents, but everyday people who own property and run businesses in Maryland Heights.

·         Our vision is to make Maryland Heights a better place to live by providing the residents of the city with an opportunity to make their voices heard.  We work with the city to improve the public engagement process with residents.

·         Maryland Height Residents for Responsible Growth sponsored a community open house with MODOT on February 17 at the Maryland Heights Community Center. MODOT briefed the audience on I-270 construction at the Dorsett and Page interchanges. The city’s public-works department discussed Progress Parkway construction and other Dorsett Road improvements. 

·         Our organization does not endorse candidates for political office. Our purpose is to provide non-partisan information regarding our community and its issues to encourage open dialog and independent decision making.

It is our hope that we can elevate the discussion of vital plans for Maryland Heights’ future through community conversation. The spreading of rumors and untruths serves no one who lives in the City of Maryland Heights. It only highlights the need for informed, responsible behavior on the part of our elected officials.
As MHRRG was coming together early this year as a broad-based community effort by residents in Maryland Heights, one of the first issues we tackled was the lack of regular ward meetings. While Ward 3 regularly has meetings, none of the other wards do and it had been, in fact, years since meetings were held in Wards 1, 2 and 4.

When confronted with the lack of ward meetings, the most common response from our ward representatives and city government was the complaint that only 5-6 people ever showed up for the meetings and it wasn't worth it.

MHRRG countered their complaints with our assertion that residents in Maryland Heights did care and would show up if the meetings were regularly scheduled and properly advertised through a variety of communications to residents.

Thanks to continuous efforts by MHRRG members Robyn Merschen and Kim Cuddeback, Ward 1 held a long-delayed residents' meeting on June 8. In addition to the traditional neighborhood signs, MHRRG sent email to the hundreds of people on our mailing list.

The turnout was fantastic! Over 58 people joined Ward 1 City Council members Ken Gold and Don Hunt for a spirited dialog on community development and transportation activities in Maryland Heights as well as an introduction to the new police dog and his handler, Office John Wilson. Residents clearly voiced their preference for regular meetings, approximately every four months.

We'll refrain from saying, "I told you so," but the absence of regular ward meetings is a serious problem and hinders accountability and transparency in city government. The council members have a responsibility to be the "eyes and ears" of their wards. They represent everyone and it's hard to do that without regular ward meetings where they can learn from, and talk to, their constituents.

Ward meetings are one of the few city forums that aren’t restricted by meeting protocols and are truly open to a productive dialog with our elected representatives. While time is allotted at City Council meetings and Planning Commission meetings for public  comments, they are time restricted  (usually three minutes per speaker) and there is no opportunity to ask questions or have a discussion with the city representatives or other meeting members.

So what can you do?

Ward 1 – Your next meeting is coming up, please attend!
To their credit, Ken Gold and Don Hunt, have just scheduled their next Ward 1 meeting, fulfilling their promise to residents at the June 8th meeting.
Monday, September 14, at 7 p.m. at the Maryland Heights Community Centre on McKelvey Road.

Wards 2 and 4 – It's time to contact your City Council members and ask why they aren't holding regular ward meetings.
Each City Council member has a public phone number and a city email address. Please feel free to contact them.

Ward 2
Ed Dirck:
 314-878-9001  edirck@marylandheights.com
Judy Barnett:  314-878-0056  jbarnett@marylandheights.com

Ward 4
Norm Rhea:
 314-739-0096  nrhea@marylandheights.com
Carol Turner:  314-739-5086  cturner@marylandheights.com

Ward 3 – Keep up the good work and let us know when the next meeting is scheduled.
It should be noted that Ward 3 City Council members Mary Nichols and Don Johnson have had a long tradition of regularly scheduled ward meetings. We applaud their ongoing efforts to fully represent their residents!