Kareem Johnson | Digital Journalist

Plan Commission Meetings Discuss City Plan, Zoning Code Revision

Combined City Council and Plan Commission members at Wednesday's joint session.

Combined City Council and Plan Commission members at Wednesday's joint session.

Joint session with city council discussed the comprehensive city plan process, and the plan commission discussed adding check-cashing establishments to zoning code

By Kareem JohnsonEmail the author | April 30, 2011

Members of the Plan Commission met twice on Wednesday, first with the city council and then for its regular session.

Joint Session:

University City Mayor Shelley Welsch, City Manager Lehman Walker, and city councilmembers met with the Plan Commission, led by Ben Halpert to discuss the planning process of a new city plan.

“The first comprehensive plan for University City was adopted in 1922. Subsequent plans were published in 1931, 1958, 1986, 1999, and 2005,” Walker said. He noted that he was the author of the 1999 plan, and actively involved with the development of the 2005 plan.

Walker said that the plan updates should occur in five to 10 year increments. Andrea Riganti, Director of Community Development added that the purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity to describe the planning process, what it is, and the timeline to develop a plan.

“A comprehensive plan is a vision for the community, an expression of what we want the community to be, where we are now, and what is desired,” she said.

In the roughly hour-and-a-half session, council members and plan commission members discussed a list of survey questions that Ray Lai, the Deputy Director of Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development had asked of them.  Some of the questions from the survey included ‘What level of citizen engagement would you like to see?’

Plan Commission Meeting

After the adjournment of the joint session, the Plan Commission passed the minutes from the four previous meetings, with Chair Ben Halpert noting that they did not have to have a quorum to approve minutes.

On continued business from the March 23 meeting, the minor subdivision and final plat of 7286 Creveling Drive was withdrawn, per a letter the planning department received on April 25.  The original minor subdivision was brought to the Plan Commission, because the owner of the property, Mike Manlin of MRM Manlin Development Group wished to subdivide his lot into two, to build another home. Manlin withdrew his application because he found that the lot, which he wanted to subdivide, was already a legal lot.

Zach Greatens of the Planning Department stated that St. Louis County had combined the lots for tax purposes at an earlier point in time.

A zoning map amendment for  Li Hua Lu and Zun Xing Li at 8162 Olive Boulevard had been requested to be tabled until the May 25 Plan Commission meeting because Mr. Li needed to have a “surveyor prepare a new site plan with the flood plain (sic) information shown.”

Mr. Halpert made a motion to move Mr. Lai’s application to be heard at the May 25 meeting, and was unanimously agreed to.

Mr. Greatens of the Planning Department then presented a text amendment to the zoning code regarding short-term loan establishments, more commonly known as payday loans, title lenders, and check-cashing establishments.

The reasons for the changes were at the request of the City Council, through City Manager Lehman Walker in light of Representative Rory Ellinger’s (D-72 University City) payday loan hearing at Centennial Commons in February.

The text amendment would add check-cashing, short-term loan establishments, and title lenders to standards for a conditional use permit approval.

During the discussion, Nova Felton, one of the commissioners asked how neighboring Clayton had no institutions if cities cannot deny applications for these sorts of establishments.

The amendment would prohibit the approval of a permit if an establishment would be located 1000 feet of another similar establishment, or within 500 feet of a public activity area, such as a park, or residential property.

The city attorney was on hand to answer questions the commission members had about the proposed amendment.

The bulk of the meeting was the discussion of whether the conditional use permits would be transferable to new owners, if the business changed hands, as Tom Byrne and Councilman Steve Kraft questioned. The text states that the “conditional use permit shall not be transferable to a successor land owner or operator.”

“But in a way it’s kind of a moot point, because you have to apply every single year for this do you not?” Byrne asked.

“Correct,” Greatens responded.

Byrne followed up by asking that if the transfer of ownership happened within that year, the permit would still have to be applied for. Greatens concurred.

In further discussion, Ben Senturia and Felton were not sure whether check-cashing establishments should be classified in the same way as payday lenders, and a motion was made to table the issue until the May 25 meeting. The motion passed unanimously.

The last business at the meeting was Mr. Greatens presentation on subdivision regulations and their review and approval procedures, to help explain the differences between minor and major subdivisions of property to the commissioners.

The meeting adjourned at 8pm. The next scheduled Plan Commission meeting is May 25 in the EOCin City Hall.

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