Cape council to plan more for long term

Monday, April 11, 2005

Cape Girardeau city officials will rely on a new committee to develop more long-range planning to ensure orderly commercial and residential growth.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said the city council will set up a strategic planning committee. He's instructed councilwomen Marcia Ritter and Debra Tracy to look at how to set up the committee.

The committee, he said, should include representation from existing planning groups including the Old Town Cape redevelopment organization and the city's planning and zoning commission.

At a meeting Friday at the Osage Community Centre, council members and planning and zoning commissioners complained about inadequate long-range planning that makes it hard to deal with everything from street improvements to zoning changes.

"There is really no long-range plan," said Skip Smallwood, who chairs the planning commission. As a result, he said, the city ends up doing street projects on a piecemeal basis.

That was evident, he said, by the lack of a long-range street plan for Cape Girardeau's downtown when the issue of making Water Street one way surfaced.

But Knudtson cautioned the group against being too critical of the city's planning efforts. He said it's difficult to get public agreement on every street plan or development project.

Still, he and other council members said a strategic planning committee involving the various planning groups in the city including the Old Town Cape development group could help bring together a more cohesive plan.

Knudtson said future street projects could include construction of an outer road extending along the east side of I-55 from Center Junction northward to the proposed East Main Street interchange.

Future development of Southeast Missouri State University's technology park and growing residential developments in that area will push development of such an outer road, the mayor said.

Councilwoman Loretta Schneider said the city needs a green-space law that would require developers to landscape part of their properties with trees and grass rather than pave entire areas for parking lots.

The commercial area along Siemers Drive, west of I-55, is crowded with concrete parking lots. "It is downright ugly out there," she said.

"We have to do a better job," Schneider said. "People do want attractive shopping areas."

But Knudtson warned that a green-space law would drive up development costs and make it harder to get major retailers to build in Cape Girardeau.

He said a better approach, and one the council has followed, is to enter into agreements with developers to earmark some sales tax proceeds from those stores to fund beautification projects and other amenities.

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335-6611, extension 123

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