Kirkwood's Vision 2015

Residents say existing vision plan should not be tampered with

The 2006 Review of the city of Kirkwood's Vision 2015 Comprehensive Plan includes "Special Focus Areas," two of which are the north side of Big Bend between Kirkwood Road and Geyer Road (in yellow); and the south side of Big Bend between Geyer Avenue and Eastview Drive (in red). (click for larger version)
January 12, 2007
Kirkwood's original Vision 2015 Comprehensive Plan isn't broken, so don't fix it. That's the sentiment of some Kirkwood residents.

With the help of Permit Consultants, the city's planning and zoning commission (P and Z) recently undertook a review of the entire plan. A draft of the review was presented to P and Z during a Jan. 3 public hearing.

"That plan (Vision 2015) called for a three-year review by P and Z," according to Kirkwood's Director of Public Works Ken Yost. "I don't think there were too many changes in the direction the city is going."

But residents have come out against two portions of the review regarding the Big Bend Road corridor. They say a study is not needed of the entire corridor as recommended in the review and that the current goals and land use of Vision 2015 should not be changed.

The two contested areas are the north side of Big Bend Road between Kirkwood Road and Geyer Avenue, and the south side of Big Bend Road between Geyer Road and Eastview Drive across from St. Louis Community College at Meramec.

They are two of four "Special Focus Areas" included in the review. Also included is the north side of Big Bend east of Taylor Avenue and the south side of Boaz Avenue west of Bach Avenue.

The review noted that these areas were highlighted because "development proposals since 2003 generated a renewed focus on forecasting appropriate development for these areas.

"The Big Bend Road corridor is of particular interest as part of this Vision 2015 Review," the review states. "…It is highly recommended that the city pursue a comprehensive study of the corridor area…"

"This review is not about changing rules or goals," said resident Norella Huggins, who was chairman of the Vision 2015 plan committee three years ago. "There is no goal in the (original Vision 2015) plan to study the Big Bend Road corridor.

"Let's stick with the goal in the plan. Don't create a new goal," Huggins said.

Big Bend - Kirkwood To Geyer

The goal Huggins referred to in Vision 2015 recommends adopting a redevelopment strategy for the area west of Kirkwood Road, north of Big Bend and south of the Burlington Northern tracks that is supported by the community and affected property owners.

Huggins also noted that the review's recommendation to study the corridor would just include lots fronting Big Bend, she explained.

"That would not be a good way to proceed," she said. She stressed that any review of Big Bend/ Kirkwood/Geyer triangular area should be "comprehensive."

Resident Ron Ryan agreed.

"It (Vision 2015) clearly calls for looking at the entire triangle," Ryan said.

Ryan also takes issue with the review's statement for this area which states that "with higher traffic volumes and future anticipated improvements to Big Bend Road, the area will become even less appropriate for single-family uses." It continues that "the city should consider the development potential of non-single family uses…"

According to Ryan, Vision 2015's future land use designation for the western portion of the triangle calls for the area to be a residential use.

"We want that to remain residential in some capacity," Ryan said.

The eastern part of the Big Bend/ Kirkwood/Geyer triangular area now contains a mix of commercial and business establishments, while the western portion contains single-family homes.

In 2000, Stages, together with Novus, proposed a performing arts center with some retail on 16 acres of the eastern section. In 2005, Landco Development proposed replacing the single-family homes with a 29,000-square-foot retail center on 3.26 acres on the western end. Both plans failed due to citizen opposition.

Big Bend - Geyer to Eastview

Regarding the area across from Meramec, the report suggests that if the single-family lots were consolidated, the area would be large enough for commercial or office development. As opportunities, it suggests that a residentially-scaled office development would provide a buffer from the neighboring convenience store.

According to Ken Yost, director of public works for the city of Kirkwood, Wentworth Development recently submitted a proposal for a 19,000-square-foot retail center for a 1.85-acre parcel west of the convenience store. It is the second attempt by Wentworth to come up with a plan for this property that would be favored by the city.

Ryan said the property across from from Meramec College was outside of the intent of Vision 2015 and that the future land use there was also residential.

"The big thing is traffic and protecting our neighborhood from commercial encroachment," Ryan said.

Kirkwood resident Bill Ruppert concurred.

"I believe the key issue regarding the Kirkwood comprehensive plan review and the Big Bend corridor component is the issue of maintaining and enhancing the neighborhood character of south Kirkwood," said Ruppert. "Taking more affordable residential housing out of our residential land use inventory and adding more commercial land use inventory in south Kirkwood is quite unjustifiable and inappropriate."

"Not Warranted By Facts"

Huggins also took issue with two statements in the review which, she said, are not warranted by facts: that development pressure is intensifying in the Big Bend area and that there is higher volume of traffic and that improvements are planned for Big Bend.

Huggins said Doc's Harley Davidson has expanded but that was foreseen in Vision 2015.

"The only other proposals brought forth for any portion of Big Bend is from one couple," Huggins said, referring to Landco's plan for Big Bend and Geyer and Wentworth's two proposals for the area across from Meramec. Landco and Wentworth are owned by the same individuals.

She said she doesn't know if traffic volumes are higher, or will be, but there are no plans for improvements to Big Bend, noting she confirmed that with St. Louis County.

A Couple Requests

Ruppert said he would like to see a couple of items added to the review.

"The Kirkwood Urban Forestry Commission (KUFC) was not listed as one of the collaborating city commissions/boards to assist with crafting improvements to the in-fill housing  code," Ruppert said.  He said he requested the addition of the KUFC to the list of collaborators."

Regarding the city's urban landscape, the city is not experiencing the quality of commercial landscapes the community deserves, Ruppert noted. He said he requested adding the review of Kirkwood's current commercial landscape standards/ordinances as as a goal.

The planning and zoning commission is expected to further review the draft report at its meeting on Jan. 17.

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