Saturday, June 23, 2007

CASE IN POINT by Joe Koester

Live one day at a time emphasizing ethics rather than rules.
Wayne Dyer

Certainly, everyone is aware of the slowdown in the housing market. While the Midwest is probably a little more insulated than the coasts, we still have seen homes for sale take months to move and new housing slow down to the point where developers have been laying off their employees. There are developments that have had the breaks put on due to this slowdown and this is unfortunate for Saint Charles. Things will improve, however, developments have stalled and it is unclear how long we will have to wait before some exciting developments come to fruition.

The Montgomery on South Main Street is reportedly in hiatus. A housing/commercial development at the old First National Bank site on Main has been scrapped (some other issues were at play at this site as well) and developments along First Capitol seemed to have lost steam too.

The Art/Community building at First Capitol and West Clay is moving along slowly but still I think most everyone is happy that this project is underway and helped clear out a run-down section of town.

You have probably read that a plan to put a street car into operation is underway and possible routes are being studied. Regardless what your feelings are on this, there are some clear guidelines that can be employed to help make such a system feasible.

Having worked with developers along West Clay who were putting in senior housing or mixing such usage into their greater development, one idea that came to mind was to truly make a corridor developed for our town’s seniors along West Clay. With no fewer than three senior housing developments in existence or planned for the area, wouldn’t it benefit Saint Charles to go ahead and plan shuttle and bus stops along this route. Furthermore, with hopes of redeveloping the Droste – West Clay – Duchesne business area, certain stores and services could be attracted to this area that would work well with such a development.

When I co-sponsored a bill making it harder for Saint Charles government to use eminent domain, I knew that it could possible make it harder to get a redevelopment along First Capitol Drive or the aforementioned business area. The main thing this ordinance did was help protect homeowners and small businesses. The tools for derelict properties have been left in place and have been implemented to condemn the old County Seat restaurant and the defunct Mulch Masters site.

When Frenchtown redevelopment was in the limelight, I often spoke with residents opposed to eminent domain abuse. Sadly, when my great aunt Marie Hanslick’s house was taken twenty years prior right in Saint Charles, few folks had much to say about it. I understand both sides of this issue and I know it is a complex issue because you are weighing public good against private property rights. I heard of one town that used eminent domain to take Wal-mart’s property! The Wal-mart Corporation screamed, “Unfair!” For too long taking of property was exclusively for large businesses. When used sparingly and appropriately most citizens do not have a black-or-white stance on the issue. Homes and businesses are regularly taken throughout the country for public infrastructure creation. Sometimes condemnation helps improve the community at large and therefore, it can be argued that even condemning certain properties for retail or industrial use could be for the public good. Take, for example, a vacant lot that has remained for ten or twenty years with weeds and trash as its only tenant. A retailer is willing to come into the area but needs the corner lot to for exposure, etc. One could argue that this would be an appropriate condemnation for public good.

Saint Charles has several redevelopment issues but in the long run, I believe St. Charles is in a good position to bring in new retail and clean up some of the pockets that need new life as long as our local government works diligently and we as citizens make it a point to shop in St. Charles and support the local businesses we have now. Also, take the time to write or call retailers whom you’d like to see come to town and let them know that our City wants them here – right here in St. Charles.

A couple final notes:

- I enjoyed the “From the City Desk” in the last FCN about the origins of the name, Missouri. I remember in Missouri history class at St. Charles High reading about an obscure footnote in Missouri History called, “The Honey Wars.” Missouri and Iowa had a little civil war of its own so I wanted to request that Mr. Riddler write a little something about that if he gets time. Not exactly “local” but a quirky history that, I’m sure, he could make interesting and informative.

- Ward 9 residents, a reminder that decorative stop signs were purchased for the entire ward. In fact, there were even some ordered for Ward 10 where intersections came together so that all signs would match. This money has already been spent. Next, money was set aside for the installation of these signs so because the city staff wouldn’t be swamped trying to put them all up. Our ward deserves this improved infrastructure. Please call city hall and Ron Stivison and ask when the installation will begin. Ron’s number is: 946-4030.

- Lastly, in a column in the St. Peters newspaper, Rich Chrismer stated that claims I made regarding the last election would be shown to be wrong. I want to point out for the record, that these claims and problems were made not by me, but by Rich Chrismer. It was the Election Authority who filed a lawsuit seeking a new election claiming that voting irregularities and mistakes made at the polls made it impossible to determine the true outcome of the election. What the Election Authority should have said was, “I will prove the claims I made were wrong.”