Cape seeks direction on future development

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The 180 pages of Cape Girardeau's comprehensive plan are faded and yellowed with age. But city officials say if updated and used correctly the document will be the blueprint for development for the next 15 to 20 years.

In order to rewrite the comprehensive plan for the first time since 1987, city leaders are asking for input from the people.

"We want to hear from anyone who has ever felt Cape was missing something. Anyone who ever had any idea of what they think Cape needs, this is the time to share that thought," said assistant to the city manager Heather Brooks.

Those wanting to share ideas on issues pertaining to "neighborhoods and quality of life" are encouraged to come to the Osage Community Centre at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. A second session on the themes of "business and future development" will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the center.

Sessions will include brainstorming and will ask participants to break out into smaller groups where large maps will be available for reference and to be marked on.

Brooks said each table will have a specific assignment. These include assessing where the city needs more green space or where and how the city should grow. Representatives of city staff will be on hand as will members of the comprehensive plan steering committee.

Consultants from Arcturis, an architectural design and city planning firm based in St. Louis, will lead the event.

In August, Arcturis was awarded the $82,000 contract to rewrite the comprehensive plan. Its representatives are being paid between $50 and $150 per hour.

Arcturis estimates the entire process will take about a year.

The comprehensive plan itself has a somewhat limited authority. It must be adopted by the planning and zoning commission and then be given a vote of confidence by city council. The plan dictates future land use by targeting certain areas for residential development and other areas for commercial development, but it will not, for example, target a specific neighborhood for cleanup or crime prevention.

"It's most useful by the development community," said Cape Girardeau planner Martha Brown.

"You're not going to take Siemers Drive and all of a sudden turn it into a park, but the comprehensive plan can look at the future in undeveloped areas" or sections that need redevelopment, Brown said.

But Brooks said ideas need not be large in scope. They can be as simple as a complaint of a difficult morning commute.

"You might just come with a list of where are there a lot of bottlenecks in town," she said.

This information can be used by planners to project where roads need to be widened or expanded and where the city needs to acquire property.

Some of the proposed streets in the 1987 plan, like Lexington Avenue and an extended West End Boulevard, are now a reality. Others, though, like the extended Vantage Drive projected to run parallel with Interstate 55 and connect with Route W on the city's north side, never came to fruition.

In fact, one of the early portions of the 1987 plan shows the difficulty of predicting the future. It projects the 2010 population of Cape Girardeau to be as high as 66,426. In the 2000 census, the city's population was only 35,349.

These outdated projections are why the plan "is at an age where we haven't been using it for a while," Brown said.

To cast a wide a net for public input, city officials have drawn up a survey that asks respondents to rate the city on criteria like how good a place is it to raise children or how tolerant is it of all its residents.

The survey is available on the city Web site, Hard copies of the form are available at the Osage Community Centre and the Arena Building. Officials have also distributed them to agencies such as the Cape Area Family Resource Center.

Still, Brooks hopes for a large turnout at the workshop events.

"I'm a realist, and I know it's hard to get people to turn out for public meetings, especially if there's not a controversial issue. I would call it a success if we could get 50 people out," she said.

335-6611, extension 245

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