Rezoning request for Saint Francis parking lot fails

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Cape Girardeau Planning and Zoning Commission deadlocked Wednesday on a rezoning request by Saint Francis Medical Center that would have cleared the way for construction of a parking garage.

The request to rezone the entire 59 acres of the medical center tract west of Silver Springs Road from C-2, general commercial, to less restrictive C-3, central business district, zoning failed on a 5-5 vote.

The commission has 11 members. But commissioner Harry Rediger, who serves on the Saint Francis board of directors, did not participate in the discussion or vote to avoid any conflict of interest.

He stepped out of the room at city hall while the commission discussed and voted on the issue.

Several commissioners said they didn't want to rezone the entire tract because then Saint Francis Medical Center would be free to build whatever it wants in the future without having to get city approval.

"I think it's bad policy for the planning and zoning commission to relinquish control of 59 acres," said commissioner William Hinckley.

Commissioner R.J. McKinney agreed. He said Saint Francis doesn't need all 59 acres rezoned to build a parking garage.

City planner Kent Bratton said Saint Francis Medical Center officials can ask the city council to rezone the property. But before that could happen, the council would have to hold a public hearing on the matter, he said.

Saint Francis Medical Center wants to build a four-story parking garage on the northeast corner of Mount Auburn and Gordonville roads. Rick Essner, director of facilities management for the hospital, said eventually the parking structure might be expanded to six stories.

The parking structure would serve the Saint Francis Health and Wellness Center, providing parking for patients.

Essner said some trees on the site would be preserved while others would be planted to replace those lost in the construction.

But some commissioners worried about having a parking structure built so close to a busy intersection. "The problem I have is the location," said commissioner Clifford Crosnoe.

Hinckley said it would be an eyesore. "The first thing you are going to see is that parking lot. It kind of detracts from the area," he said.

But other commissioners said the medical center has a track record of development on its property and should be free to make improvements.

"I can't believe we can turn this application down," said commissioner Raymond Buhs.

In other action, the commission recommended the city council deny a developer's request to rezone an industrial tract on the northeast corner of Kingshighway and Southern Expressway to allow for construction of a low-income housing complex.

Sterling Development LLC of Mishawaka, Ind., wants to build a 144-unit apartment complex on the 18-acre site. The first phase of the development would have involved construction of 88 units ranging from one-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom apartments.

Developer Kyle Bach said the project would involve tax-credit financing. Tenants would have been limited to those with incomes between $23,040 and $38,220, he said.

But commissioners and owners of nearby industrial firms opposed putting a residential development in an industrial area.

Operators of several industrial firms said they were worried about public safety in the event of an industrial accident and that such a development might increase the risk of theft.

"We don't want to set a new trend on South Kingshighway," said implement dealer John Heuer.

The commission also recommended the council:

* Approve a special-use permit for a day-care center at 1200 Ranney Ave.

* Approve a special-use permit for a drive-in Sonic restaurant at 262 Siemers Drive.

* Approve record plats of Rollins Place, Forest Hills Estates Third and Charlie's Place subdivisions.

* Approve an amendment to the city's commercial zoning law.

* Deny a request for variance to sidewalk requirements for Rock Creek Meadows Subdivision.

335-6611, extension 123

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