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50 turn out for idea session

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The people who gathered Wednesday night to pore over maps and debate where to place Cape Girardeau's new roads, parks and commercial space were not town planners.

The majority of the about 50 people at the Osage Community Centre weren't builders or even in a related field. They were interested residents, and their task was to give ideas to help the city plan for its future.

The event, called a "town planning workshop," was part of Cape Girardeau's yearlong process to revise and update its comprehensive plan.

The plan, which has not been updated since 1987, will serve as the blueprint for growth and development for the next 15 to 20 years and deals with issues like zoning and annexation.

Public input is key, organizers said.

"It's not going to be done in some back room and then sprung upon you," said planner Bill Burke of Arcturis, an architectural and planning firm based in St. Louis and hired to update the plan. "Your community leaders want to hear your ideas."

At eight tables groups of six or more discussed city issues like housing, parks, roads and annexation. One part of a prepared survey asked participants to pick out areas for low-, medium- and high-dollar developments.

After one group discussed three possible locations for low to medium-priced housing, they worried these spacious spots were too isolated.

"I wonder where do you have enough land to build where you also have a day care and a grocery store and a swimming pool and all of that," said Karen Hendrickson, a 39-year resident of Cape Girardeau.

Hendrickson and others at the table believed there is ample apartment space in town, but probably not enough moderately priced single-family housing.

On the other side of the room, Bob Zeller, a 27-year Cape Girardeau resident, voiced a similar hope for new housing. "There should be places where people can walk or bike to do their shopping and not necessarily drive," he said.

Walkable communities and smaller lot sizes for homes was a recurring theme. Others in Zeller's group discussed the potential for "zero-lot" housing, units that fit tightly together and require little maintenance.

"The traditional four-bedroom, $350,000 house is such a well-developed theme. But it no longer meets the needs of a growing baby boomer generation who don't want to do things like mow the lawn," said businessman Robin Cole. "There is nothing inside the city limits right now to meet the needs of people who are not Ozzie and Harriet."

Most at the workshop agreed Cape Girardeau's future growth would be to the north of its current borders due to the East Main Street interchange on Interstate 55 set for completion in early 2008. Some believed the city should ease traffic congestion in that area with one or more outer roads running parallel to I-55.

Others strongly believe Cape Girardeau needs to address a green-space shortage before it looks to more development.

"One thing I see is the almost mindless commitment to tarmac everything in sight... It turns us into a flood city," said Dr. Alan Journet of Southeast Missouri State University.

"When you have parking lot after parking lot, when rain falls it hits asphalt. Of course it floods. There have to be areas of town that are -- not necessarily defined as parks -- but are just not asphalt."

The next workshop centering on the themes of business and future development will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Osage Community Centre. It is open to the public.


335-6611, extension 245

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