Proposed zoning changes would encourage uses Cape Girardeau deems desirable

Monday, February 15, 2010
Jerry Buck assists customer Alaka Carter at the B&H Convenience Store, 1021 Bloomfield St. in Cape Girardeau. Trayanna Jones, left, waited for her friend while Patrick Buck Jr. took a break. (Fred Lynch)

At the corner of Bloomfield and Hanover streets, the B&H Convenience Store offers sandwiches prepared at an old-style deli case.

The store, opened last year by Patrick Buck and his wife, Tamara Zellars Buck, with their partner James Fullenwider, also has a selection of snacks, beer, bread and milk. Located in a commercial building in the middle of an older residential neighborhood, it is the kind of neighborhood business that will be encouraged by the proposed new Cape Girardeau zoning code.

The city council will begin its consideration of the new code with a public hearing that begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 401 Independence St.

Zellars Buck, a Southeast Missouri State University assistant professor, said she wasn't completely convinced when her husband pitched the idea. They also own Phat Cat, a bar at 731 Broadway.

"I think it works in close-knit neighborhoods," Zellars Buck said. "But he had to convince me it was a workable idea."

The business is a real family affair. The Bucks' teen sons, Patrick Jr. and Jerry, work at the counter on many days after school.

The store carries brands that are difficult, if not impossible, to find in Cape Girardeau, like Old Vienna of St. Louis' Red Hot Riplets, a spicy potato chip.

"We are really trying to focus on brand names," Patrick Buck said. "Really, it is the hometown feel and some of the nostalgia."

When they wanted to open the store, they needed a special-use permit that described the kind of business they would open. If the new code is approved by the Cape Girardeau City Council, a better way of gaining permission to operate the business would be permanently rezoning the property as a Neighborhood Commercial District. That would open up a wide range of potential small business options.

It is one of several ideas incorporated in the zoning code designed to encourage activities the city views as desirable. The Neighborhood Commercial District, for example, can be used to rezone buildings that were designed for commercial use but sit in older residential neighborhoods, city planner Sarah Wallace said.

The B&H Convenience Store is open at 1021 Bloomfield St. (Fred Lynch)

In areas where new development is taking place, the Neighborhood Commercial District could be used for a property at a major intersection, Wallace said. Wink's Convenience Store at Lexington Avenue and Perryville Road is an example of the kind of business that could use the designation in a newer part of town. Like B&H, it operates now under a special-use permit, but the neighborhood commercial district would be the right designation for similar development in the future, she said.

The proposed zoning code is the first complete overhaul of zoning rules since 1967. The need for rewriting city land use rules was identified in the Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2008. For more than a year, Wallace, assistant city manager Ken Eftink and planner Martha Brown have been working with a subcommittee of the Planning and Zoning Commission to prepare the 180-page ordinance.

"Life has changed," Hinckley said. In the 1960s, "you could only be strictly this or this or this. People are moving into cities, moving into areas that are mixed uses. If you live in a condominium, you want to walk two stories down to a little shop."

But small businesses tucked into neighborhoods aren't the only things the proposed code seeks to encourage. It also includes new zoning districts, such as the agricultural district designation, to encourage people with land expected to be developed to accept annexation while being allowed to continue farming until the property is subdivided.

Other proposals that would become law if the rewritten code is approved include:

* Large lot developments called Rural Estates. The minimum lot size would be 1 1/2 acres, with "hobby farms" with cattle or horses on lots larger than five acres. The limit would be one grazing animal per acre.

* Neighborhood preservation through Neighborhood Conservation Districts. In an area that is a minimum of two acres, 51 percent of the property owners could ask the city to make the designation so they could put in place rules to protect the character of their neighborhood.

* High-density apartment development rules that would allow 30 units per acre.

Zoning is one area of government regulation that has an effect almost daily on people's lives. It determines where factories locate, where single-family homes will be built and where retail stores will do their business.

The proposed new code also seeks to rationalize the varied land uses throughout the city. At one time, a railroad line ran down the middle of Independence Street. Property on both sides was zoned for manufacturing.

In the new zoning map that will accompany consideration of the rewritten code, property along the north side of Independence from West End Boulevard to Caruthers Avenue will be rezoned for commercial use, which fits the actual uses. The property on the southside will remain manufacturing, where the idle Thorngate factory and AmerenUE's maintenance offices are located, in part to encourage flexibility in the reuse of the Thorngate building.

The land along Kingshighway north of Independence Street will also be rezoned to commercial from manufacturing, Eftink said.

The owners of property that will be rezoned have been notified, with about 300 letters being sent. The city planning department also met with property owners to talk about changes and asked for input on the details of the plan.

The Planning and Zoning Commission held two open house meetings and a public hearing on the plan. The subcommittee had many more meetings, talking with major property owners to make sure they understood what the city wanted to do, Hinckley said.

"We had a lot of meetings with frank, open talks," he said. "We had disagreements and compromises and what was really nice was nobody ever took the attitude that their point of view was the only attitude that ought to prevail."

rkeller@semissourian.com

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Pertinent addresses:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau MO

1021 Bloomfield St., Cape Girardeau, MO

731 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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