P&Z commission to look at commercial development rules

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Cape Girardeau Planning and Zoning Commission will continue its journey through the city zoning code Wednesday evening with a discussion of how to overhaul the rules governing commercial development.

The city is rewriting zoning ordinances to mesh with a comprehensive plan prepared last year and in anticipation of the completion of long-term plans for central areas of the city as part of the DREAM Initiative. The commission reviewed the first draft of residential codes in February.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday at city hall, the commission is accepting public comment on the first draft for commercial codes. The draft code includes seven commercial and manufacturing district designations to replace the eight currently in law.

The last time the city zoning rules underwent a comprehensive review and revision was 40 years ago, according to Sarah Wallace, the community planner who is coordinating the effort. That has left the city with antiquated rules that, in many instances, aren't adequate to meet modern conditions.

"What we have done in the draft is that each district has an identified purpose, which outlines what uses are appropriate and gives those in generalities," Wallace said.

For example, the draft proposes a district to be known as the "Central Business District" to replace C-3 zoning. Changes include limiting building heights to five stories instead of eight and barring new development of warehouses, wholesale establishments, ice plants, freight terminals, grain elevators or similar businesses. Instead, the purpose clause includes a directive "to protect the small-community appeal, integrity, character and charm within the Central Business District" by making new development fit with existing uses.

Removing the language allowing warehouses, grain elevators or ice plants is part of removing old designations, Wallace said. "If we really are looking at redeveloping the downtown area, I don't think those businesses give us the direction we are looking for in that redevelopment."

The draft also includes "NCD" or "Neighborhood Commercial District" to allow the sale of convenience goods or personal services to people living in nearby residences.

No existing uses would be stopped, but existing businesses that don't meet the new rules could be limited in their ability to expand operations, Wallace said.

The draft commercial and manufacturing codes haven't been thoroughly analyzed for the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, but so far the effort seems to be in line with what businesses expect from the city, said Tim Arbeiter, vice president for community development. Instead of specifically stating each allowable business, he said the purpose clauses on each zoning district give a business owner guidance for where they can locate a new operation.

"What I like about the draft is pretty clear language, a lot of room for interpretation and a little more clearer sense of what is in each district," Arbeiter said.



Pertinent addresses:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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