Wildwood Town Center plan revisited
By: Sarah Wilson
The city of Wildwood’s Planning/Economic Development/Parks committee at its Jan. 23 public hearing voted to do further study on the future land use designation of a 60-acre parcel of ground known as the Jones property, which is collectively located on the north side of Hwy. 100, between Hwy. 109 and Taylor Road.
The site, which has had a mix of land use designations, has generated significant discussion throughout the course of the past three years because of the property owners’ concerns about the lack of a Downtown District designation on a portion of it, located at the intersection of Taylor Road and State Route 100 and specifically identified to be best suited for development.
The Jones property is one of the four properties subject to recommendation as part of the city’s Town Center Plan update.
At the public hearing, residents voiced their concerns with the property – addressing how the property will affect their property values, its proximity to Taylor Road and Wildwood not needing any more commercial designations.
Options for rezoning include Neighborhood General, defined as a mixed-use area, high-density residential zone; and Downtown District, defined as the most intense land use district that can accommodate all types of commercial activities.
Resident Susan Treiber said Taylor Road is in her backyard and if the property were to be designated as Neighborhood General it would only benefit the Jones family.
“They can make a little extra money on their land. I understand that; I completely do. If I owned it, I’d probably feel the same way,” Treiber said. “But you’ve got to think about all of the people in this area. … This road is right at our backyard. … Our home values have dropped immensely because of the economy, and I think that they’ll drop more if we have this mixed-use business and residential also with this road.”
Resident Betsy Ragelis said she would rather pay more property taxes than have more commercial in Wildwood.
“I don’t think there’s enough commercial knocking down the door of Wildwood,” Ragelis said. “We’ve got plenty of buildings that aren’t being leased now.
“We didn’t move to Wildwood to have it be built up like Chesterfield, like Manchester, like Des Peres, where you have traffic going left and right all hours of the day and night.”
Rick Jones, co-owner of the Jones property, said he is interested in the community of Wildwood and wishes for it to succeed, but he also mentioned the threat of an eliminated pool tax as a good reason to promote commercial development.
“Years ago, who would have thought that the pool tax might change,” Jones said. “Today, you never know. We need to be prepared and moving ahead. … My mother and father sacrificed a lot to assemble that piece of ground that’s there. … It took a lot of time and energy and effort to build that piece in the hopes that some day it would develop and become something pretty special.”
Janet Hoven, also a member of the Jones family and the city’s Town Center Advisory Panel, said the family has offers and letters of intent if the property were to obtain Downtown District zoning.
“They are standing in line and they will not come forward unless we’re designed Downtown District, because they know it’s a long, hard fight to change from one designation to another,” Hoven said. “So I just ask that you guys really work hard to think about giving up this real gem that is very desirable because it just screams commercial and retail, and I think you need to respect that and take advantage of it.”
Councilmember Debra Smith McCutchen (Ward 5) said she understands the Jones family’s perspective that “they would like to get the most bang for their buck.”
“I totally understand that,” Smith McCutchen said. “However, there are many more residents than just the Jones family members, and those residents also want the best bang for their buck for their property values. … If they are designated commercial in some way, everybody else loses a tremendous amount of not just property value but quality of life, and that’s what the city has always prided itself on is preserving the quality of life for its residents.”
The PEP committee on Dec. 18 discussed the first two properties: Spanos and Brown.
In regard to the Spanos property, the PEP voted to support the split land use designation of the properties, as approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission – updating the Town Center Plan, but leaving the future land use designation undecided on the Spanos property.
As for the Brown property, the committee voted to remove the two properties from the Town Center Area and return them to the Suburban Residential Area. This recommendation on Jan. 14 was forwarded to the City Council, where the members referred it back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review and action.
The PEP committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, Feb. 26, to have a public hearing at the new City Hall, located at 16860 Main St., to discuss the future land use designations of the fourth property in question – the Slavik Associates property, located on the west side of Hwy. 109 between Hwy. 100 and Manchester Road.