Townhouses for downtown Cape on hold

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A newly formed Cape Girardeau development company wants to construct 17 luxury townhouses around a planned courtyard on now vacant ground north of Broadway in a move that the developers say would help revitalize the city's downtown.

But the planning and zoning commission on Wednesday night tabled the request of developers Jim and Michaele Riley and Jerri and John Wyman for the special use permit needed to proceed with the $4 million Spanish Court development at 210 N. Spanish St. after neighbors voiced concerns.

Neighboring property owners worry that the project would crowd too many townhouses on the site, might block their views of the Mississippi River and may place buildings too close to their yards.

Marsha Limbaugh, who lives at 205 Bellevue, said some of the townhouses would border her back yard. "That's a lot of people in our back yard," she said of the proposed development.

Limbaugh said the project also could close off access to their backyard hillside, which currently can be reached from the Spanish Street dead end.

Bert Kellerman, who owns an apartment building on Bellevue, told commissioners he was concerned that the townhouses might block the view of the river and that the development would crowd too many people onto one tract of land.

"The density is a concern," he said.

But Riley said the two-story townhouses won't block neighbors' views of the river. "We're trying to do the right thing at every turn," he told the advisory board.

Commissioners said sewer lines might have to be relocated and Spanish Street right of way would have to be vacated by the city for the development to proceed. Spanish Street currently dead ends north of Broadway.

The planning commission said the issue would be put back on the agenda for the advisory board's next meeting which is scheduled for May 12 at 7 p.m.

Commissioners urged the developers to reach agreement with neighbors prior to bringing the project back to the board.

But commissioners generally voiced support for the overall concept. "We hope it goes," said commissioner R.J. McKinney.

"Go do your homework," commissioner Harry Rediger told the developers.

Final approval rests with the city council, which won't consider the proposed development of the commercially zoned property until after the planning commission makes a recommendation.

Bill Dunn, president of the Cape Girardeau Downtown Merchants Association, said the project is a "wonderful idea."

Riley said prior to the meeting that he initially bought the neglected ground, which was over grown with trees, in 2000 from the Boyd Group, which at one time had hoped to develop a riverboat casino along the riverfront.

The property sits just west of Riley's business, Red Letter Communications advertising agency.

Riley said he spent $30,000 to clear the sloped ground.

John and Jerri Wyman, who have been involved in downtown redevelopment efforts for years, said the proposed two-story townhouses would have exteriors that reflect traditional Spanish and European architecture.

Michael Schroeder, a Minneapolis designer who previously did some design work for the Old Town Cape downtown redevelopment organization, is helping with the project design.

John Wyman said the townhouses would involve "brick, wood and stucco construction."

Riley called proposed development the largest private investment in downtown Cape Girardeau in years.

The developers plan to sell the townhomes, which would be priced from $180,000 to $495,000. The grounds would be maintained collectively by a homeowners association that would be set up, similar to a condominium venture.

Jerri Wyman said the two-and three-bedroom townhouses would have garages. Most would be two-car garages. Some of the smaller townhouses would have only one-car garages, she said.

Riley said the vacant property currently generates $890 a year in property taxes. The proposed development could generate about $67,000 in property tax revenue within two years, he said.

Riley said downtown businesses would benefit from a larger, residential customer base.

The developers are pushing to get the project underway in May with some townhouses completed by fall. "We would like to complete the whole project in 18 months," John Wyman said.

In other action, the commission recommended:

Approval of a special use permit for a proposed day care center at 832 S. Sprigg in an R-3, two-family dwelling district.

Denial of a request of Charles and Judy Siebert for a special use permit to operate a photography and graphic design company in their home at 2573 Lisa Drive.

Approval of a request of Clila L.P. to rezone 602, 606 and 608 Maple and 612 and 616 S. Sprigg from residential to commercial to allow for future development.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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