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Chesterfield considers revised development review process, parks master plan

By: Jim Erickson

Final action still is pending on an ordinance changing the process for taking a second look at proposed developments in Chesterfield and a recommendation to update the city parks master plan.

Under existing ordinances, the city council has the power to review a wide range of development plans already approved by the planning commission. The process enables either councilmember in a ward where a development is proposed or the mayor to call for a review of such a plan by the council’s planning and public works committee before it goes to the council for final action. Such a request must be made within 24 hours of the planning commission’s decision.

Covered in the power of review ordinance are plans ranging from site development and landscape to lighting and sign packages.

The change also would enable any two councilmembers from any ward to call for such a review. In addition, the time frame for making the request would be lengthened to 72 hours after the planning commission’s decision.

Councilmembers Guy Tilman [Ward 2] and Dan Hurt [Ward 3] supported the changes when they first came before the planning and public works committee in November. They said some development plans have a broad impact that affects the entire city, not just the ward in which they are located, and that allowing other councilmembers to call for a review is reasonable. Extending the time period also provides needed flexibility because the 24-hour period is too tight, they said.

Councilmember Tom DeCampi [Ward 4], who attended the meeting as a proxy for Councilmember Michelle Ohley, also of Ward 4, countered that the city’s current approval process for development plans already is onerous. Proposed changes in the power of review authority will only make it more so, he predicted.

However, Merrell Hansen, who chairs the planning commission, endorsed the changes as providing additional checks and balances. The commission’s decisions will be subject to a broadened review process once the changes take effect.

With Councilmember Barry Flachsbart, the committee’s fourth member, absent, the changes passed on 2-1 votes. DeCampi was opposed to both. Because committee rules require three votes for a positive recommendation, the changes came to the council without that favorable endorsement.

At its Dec. 4 meeting, the City Council approved the first reading of the ordinance calling for the changes. A second reading and final action will come at a future council session, with the next council meeting to be held Wednesday, Jan. 3.

With necessary funding already included in the 2017 budget, the city’s parks, recreation and arts department is seeking council approval to update its master plan.

According to Tom McCarthy, who heads the department, updating the current master plan is needed so the city can qualify for municipal parks grants and retain accreditation.

At the Dec. 4 council meeting, city officials presented a recommendation to hire a firm that specializes in developing and updating master plans. However, Barbara McGuinness (Ward 1) questioned spending up to $60,000 for the work when city officials are keeping a close eye on the budget. In addition, the city’s parks, recreation and arts department has the necessary expertise to handle the job in-house, she asserted.

In response, McCarthy said the master plan process is complex and detailed and requires experience his department doesn’t have.

Councilmembers weighed in on both sides of the issue before approving a DeCampi motion, by a 4-3 vote, to postpone a decision until the next council meeting to provide more time for study. Joining DeCampi in voting for the delay were McGuinness, Ohley and Tilman.

Councilmembers Randy Logan [Ward 3] and Flachsbart [Ward 1] joined Hurt in opposing the postponement.

Five city officials and Mike Whelan, who chairs the department’s citizens advisory committee, received proposals from seven planning firms and interviewed four of them before unanimously recommending Pros Consulting of Indianapolis.

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