Cape council to consider rezoning near River Campus

Monday, August 18, 2008

Retail shops, restaurants and residences are in. Meat packers, tanneries and salvage yards are out.

That last item could cause the loudest objections Monday evening when the Cape Girardeau City Council considers changing the zoning for a five-square block area surrounding the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus.

The zoning change would remove the M-1 light manufacturing designation assigned to large portions of the area and replace it with a C-3, or downtown commercial district, designation. City officials said the change is to create uniformity in the area as it attracts investment seeking to capitalize on River Campus traffic.

"This is one of the recommendations of the comprehensive plan," said Ken Eftink, director of development services for the city. "In the list of zoning issues we need to improve on, this one was a priority. We had input from Old Town Cape and downtown businesses of a good step to take, so we are doing it."

The zoning change would affect about one-third of the property included in the rezoned area. The area included is between Merriwether Street to the north and Highway 74 to the south and runs from the Mississippi River west to Frederick Street.

The only business in the area that does not conform to the new zoning rules is River Front Auto Parts, 212 S. Spanish St. While the new zoning won't alter how Lester Sample does business at that location, it will mean he can't make any major changes in his operation without a variance.

"I don't like it," Sample said in an interview Friday. "If it is going to increase property values I say go ahead and do it. But I ain't the only one against it."

Sample said he intends to attend today's council meeting to make sure city leaders understand his objections. He's already made his stand known to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which voted unanimously to recommend the change. Sample was joined by several other business owners or representatives at the commission meeting, and his son Tom Sample, who owns Tom's Muffler at 211 Aquamsi St., also said he objects to the change.

"What they are trying to do is put people out of business," Tom Sample said. "They don't want us down here."

The purpose of the change isn't to drive anyone currently in business from the area, Eftink said. It is, instead, an attempt to create a uniform set of rules for new endeavors.

The city is in the final stages of moving sewer lines and obtaining property for the extension of Fountain Street from Morgan Oak Street to Independence Street, city manager Doug Leslie said. He expects the city will advertise for bids on the job in the fall or early spring. When that construction is complete, the stage will be set for redevelopment in the area. The area must be rezoned, he said, because "M-1 allows some uses that would not be compatible with what is envisioned."

M-1 zoning allows meat packing, boat manufacturing, wood planing and millwork, even an animal kennel. M-1 zoning does not allow the construction of new residences. The proposed zoning change to C-3 allows the construction of residences without obtaining any special permits and also allows property owners to set up retail shops.

"Those light industrial uses could be very noisy and very offensive to the neighbors," Eftink said. "And they could operate around the clock."

335-6611, extension 126

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