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Paul McKee, Board Member of St. Charles-Based Pro-Sprawl “Urban Choice Coalition”

Paul McKee, the St. Charles developer and land baron behind the “Blairmont” project has continued to remain in the news of late. I ran across his name while researching the board members of a pro-sprawl, anti-city group based in St. Charles County. Mr. McKee is a board member of a group that interestingly is anti government intervention out in the virgin farmlands but is all in favor of intervention in the city.

The following is the mission statement for the Urban Choice Coalition in its entirety:

WE BELIEVE in the right of individuals to live wherever they choose and can afford. We reject the blanket condemnation of growth in suburban counties as being a root cause of urban decay and further reject the pejorative term “urban sprawl” to describe the healthy expansion of new communities.

WE BELIEVE that it is the right of individuals to select the state, city, county, neighborhood or development of their choice to call home and not be denied governmental services, grants or benefits, otherwise available on a national or statewide basis, because of their choice of residence.

It should not be the role of government to deny services to anyone based on their choices of where to live.

It should not be the role of government to set up artificial growth boundaries, outside of which citizens or communities receive any less governmental benefits.

It should not be the role of state or regional government planning agencies to erect growth boundaries and attempt to dictate or dissuade anyone from living where they choose.

WE FURTHER BELIEVE certain public policy issues should be resolved on a statewide or regional basis, but that those decisions concerning who and where to extend local utilities and roads, or to build new schools and local government facilities are, for the most part, best left to local decision makers elected by the people they represent and that these local decisions should not be turned over to or subject to, further review by statewide or regional planning commissions not elected by the people.

WE FAVOR enhancing the quality of life in the urban core and positive inducements to promote “city living” as the best means of attracting new residents and stabilizing older neighborhoods.

But presumably it should be the role of the state governent to enact massive tax breaks for one person, say Paul McKee, so that he may assemble large areas of land within a single municipality within the state. Of couse the legislation passed by the Missouri legislature isn’t limited to McKee’s well-known but unannounced housing project but the various requirements pretty much make it tailor made just for him.

It would seem to be that an individual property rights type person, one who opposes big government intervention in land planning matters, would also oppose such intervention everywhere. But to McKee and his co-sprawlers they want it all — the ability to rape open farmland with single-use projects which are auto dependent as well as receive huge tax breaks for assembling land (which happens to contain people & buildings) on the scale of urban renewal projects like Pruitt-Igoe.

Oh yes, I see, they believe we need to have “positive inducements” in order to attract people to this idea of “city living.” Why the quotes on city living McKee & Co? I know why, you don’t really understand city living. Or maybe you do? You are likely afraid of the whole idea of people enjoying dense and walkable mixed-use neighborhoods. Sure, you talk a nice game about the “rights of indiviuals” to live where they like but you are all afraid they will stop picking the auto-centric housing subdivisions you call “communities.” And face it boys, the sprawl neighorhoods you’ve littered on the landscape for years has absolutely nothing to do with free choice — government planning has created the zoning codes that mandate everything from the lot size to the street width.

Pro-sprawl zoning in the suburbs has limited choices  — you can’t just build a corner storefront with your living space above anywhere you think their might be demand.  Oh no, in their world we must divide everything up — no mixing of residential, retail and office.  They  don’t really support individualism or free thinking about land use, they like what exists and simply want nobody to stop them until they’ve managed to merge St. Louis with Columbia MO.

The only way New Town at St. Charles got built in the urban manner that it did (urban relative to lot sizes, setbacks, street widths, etc…) is that the City of St. Charles agreed to adopt DPZ’s smart code for New Town.  Without this new zoning, what we see in New Town would not have been legally allowed as the area was zoned for industrial uses.  So where are McKee & Co when it comes to the sprawl-mandated zoning that predominates St. Charles County?  Right behind it 100%!

Another section above is how they like decisions left to local decision makers.  I’m just guessing because that is cheaper for them than having to contribute to a bunch of regional and state officials.  This weekend’s Post-Dispatch story on McKee pointed out his contributions to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and Mayor Francis Slay.  Of course, to get that new tax bill passed he had to drop some money around the state as well.

To see the list of directors for the Urban Choice Coalition don’t look for it on their website.  You might even get the impression from their anonymous site that they are ashamed of their views — not wanting to be associated with it.  I can’t say that I blame them really, I would not want to put my name on that BS either.  So for the board list I had to go to the Secretary of State’s records, click here for their last report.  Basically it is all the people that financially benefit from the planned sprawl of the countryside in St. Charles County, including engineers, road builders, and the Executive Director of the Home Builders Association of Greater St. Louis.

Everyone agrees that North St. Louis needs major new investment and infill construction.  I just don’t think McKee and his anti-city, pro-sprawl buddies are the right people for the job.


Currently there are "26 comments" on this Article:

  1. I Love Local Control! says:

    Seriously? Some group actually WROTE that and believes it?

    I think they may be on the right track with this whole idea – they just don’t know it yet. Perhaps it would be a good idea to leave “decisions concerning who and where to extend local utilities and roads, or to build new schools and local government facilities are, for the most part, best left to local decision makers.”

    I guess that would mean that roads should be funded locally too? If cities and counties had to pay for their own roads I would bet that local decision makers would consciously decide to promote more compact walkable development.

    Then again, perhaps they mean that statewide transportation policy and funding priorities should be decided at a local level. You know, in St. Charles, by Paul Mckee himself. Now THAT’s true local control.

    Paul, there are a couple potholes that need to be filled on Gustine by my house. If you could get to that soon I would really, really appreciate it. And if you could remove those cobblestones too…

  2. Christine says:

    Just seing the name Rory Riddler on the list of Directors tells me that this organization is evil
    LOL – the man just was thrown off the St Charles City Council because of his shenanigans and is in cahoots with Bob Lowery, Jr in O’Fallon and his attempts at land grabbing with the recent fiasco over Busch Wildllife – they both need to go back under the rock from which they came and Bobby Jr needs to take Papa with him!

  3. Adam says:

    “It should not be the role of government to deny services to anyone based on their choices of where to live.”

    funny, last i checked the governement denies all sorts of choices that are harmful to people and to the environment (although maybe not enough).

    to summarize: it should NOT be the role of government to deny services, BUT it SHOULD be the role of government to subsidize any and every service without question.

    Paul McKee is a scum-bag. he needs to be locked up for this conniving BS. make an example out of him.

    steve, is there a way to get this aired on the news (Channel 2?) and/or printed in the PD. McKee needs to be exposed at every turn.

  4. Joe Blow says:

    Is Pat Sullivan related to McBride and Son’s Rick Sullivan who is in charge of the SLPS?

    [SLP – I do not know if they are related or not.]

  5. crackity jones says:

    Man, that St. Charles County mindset is a rough one to wrap the brain around.

    The St. Charles people who bailed out of the city in the 70s and 80s and took the business and tax base with them to live in their own little white world are the reason the city declined.

    The hypocrisy is coming out of the seams here on this one.

    I hope these clowns do not demolish all of those beautiful historic buildings on the north side to build a subdivision of paper houses on a 30-year depreciation design.

    Now for a lighter topic…………

    Steve, did I see you at Chimichanga’s on Grand last night? If so what did you have?

    [SLP – Yes, I was at Chimi’s and had the salmon.]

  6. stlmark says:

    2 of the members of this coalition are lying about where they live.
    Dan Brungard and Pat Sullivan claim to be St. Louisians.
    They live in Clayton and Creve Coeur in all honesty.
    Get it right fellas. Clayton and Creve Coeur are far, far different than my beloved St. Louis.

  7. Tim says:

    Thats a scary way of thinking and a good reason not to use Keith Schneider with Colliers Turley Martin Tucker for any of your commercial real estate needs…the address he has listed is the Colliers office in St Charles.

  8. Jim Zavist says:

    Interesting stuff. While I’m a big believer in the power of the market, I’m also a believer in setting reasonable limits and working toward the greater good. These guys seem to have mastered the art of double-speak: “WE BELIEVE that it is the right of individuals to . . . not be denied governmental services, grants or benefits, otherwise available on a national or statewide basis, because of their choice of residence. It should not be the role of government to deny services to anyone based on their choices of where to live.” On the face of it, it makes sense . . . but with one huge caveat – IF YOU’RE WILLING TO PAY FOR IT! Greater distances makes everything exponentially more expensive. In Colorado, we paid a surcharge on our urban phone bills so that rural areas wouldn’t have to pay the full cost of running miles of phone lines out to individual farm houses on the plains. In Missouri rural areas get more highways than they pay for in their share of state taxes. Illinois wants people in Missouri to pay for a new bridge because of the growing number of commuters from Illinois. Yeah, you do have a right to do much of what you want to do with your land, but don’t expect others to subsidize it – if you’re willing to pay ALL offsite (as well as onsite) infrastructure costs (schools, highways, police, fire, utilities, air quality, pensions), fine, we can talk. But to come up with empty promises that sprawl gives people “choices” and builds the tax base simply isn’t enought to convince me! We have a hard enough time paying for what we have already!

  9. Mark says:

    I do not know nor have never met Mr McKee but his financing, bulilding and marketing of New Town and support of such “futuristic” concepts as living in a community where people walk to services, church and neighborhood meetings Is just a load of smelly fish I seem to have achieved the same goal and did not have to transport myself out to a former crop bearing field to get it , I just moved into an established St Louis City neighborhood. Come On this guy McKee lives in Huntleigh. Someone please tell me about any feature of Huntleigh that allows or fosters people a sense of community. Where do they walk? to just the edge of their camera monitored security fence? This guy is out land grabbing all over North St Louis no wonder he got appointed/selected to the Board of Directors for BJC..seems his experience at grabbing was just what they needed.

    [SLP — For the record, Paul McKee has no involvement in New Town.  He was the driving force behind the Winghaven development.]

  10. Jonathan Franzen says:

    This Blairmont story only gets more outrageous, you can’t write fiction like this. Oh wait, I did write it, it’s “The Twenty-Seventh City”.

  11. matt says:

    The mission statement from the “Urban Choice Coalition” forgot to take into consideration that we live in a civilization of morals and agreements (spoken and unspoken) that allow this society to continue, function, and prosper. the region stringing infrastructure for a hundred miles is suicide.

  12. barbara_on_19th says:

    Mayor Slay is apparently planning to announce the big Blairmont plan in early August. At the regular 5th Ward on June 13, Charles Bryson showed up with April (Neighborhood Development Exec in the Mayor’s ofice) . He stated that in August 2007, Mayor Slay would be holding a press conference to discuss the real estate development for North St. Louis.

  13. Maurice says:

    It should not be the role of government to deny services to anyone based on their choices of where to live.

    and other cr_p.

    I’ve read some good stories lately, but this one takes the cake. Sure, lets live where we want and demand that the goverment provide me the services regardless of the costs and then in a few years when other people decide to do their own thing and they find themselves living in the middle of …..a city…because sprawl has spread around them, then they will wake up and say ….Gee, I should have voted to contain sprawl.

  14. Maurice says:

    WE FAVOR enhancing the quality of life in the urban core and positive inducements to promote “city living” as the best means of attracting new residents and stabilizing older neighborhoods.

    Gee, wasn’t that nice of them to toss us this little cookie! We should support them, after all, we are urban dwellers, we dare to live in the inner core, the dark pit of all of society ills.

  15. GMichaud says:

    The thing about these people, including Paul McKee, is that I could care less about their lust for money. The only problem is it impacts my (and their) children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on. Not only is there limited energy resources, ultimately the old saying, “waste not, want not,” fits well here.
    The chewing up of farm land has its consequences also. The problem with these guys, who seem to be some sort of real estate mafia, is that they have no philosophy behind what they are doing. Their main goal is to duplicate the money making formula of development that involves expensive government participation to offset the heavy costs of sprawl development (and insure high profitability for their operations).
    An approach with some philosophy behind it might be a version of Frank Lloyd Wrights Broad Acre City, self sustaining internally and dependent upon minimal inputs from the outside. The history of urban planning has many examples of thought behind city development, new urbanism is a most recent example. Whether or not you agree with them at least they are asking questions that can help build a new future.
    Instead these people, this mafia, are jeopardizing my children’s future solely to fill their apparently limitless lust for wealth. These guys are running the earth and our lives into the ground to satisfy their cravings.
    This democracy is being jeopardized as well by this mafia and their paid help in the state capital and local city halls.
    In some ways it boils down to what JZ asked in his guest blog. “What should change and how should we get started”. Or I would say a little less delicately, what is the best way to organize to overcome the thugs that rule as if they are little kings?

  16. john says:

    Understand everyone that what you are disappointed about is exactly the type of social and governmental behavior/policies that are highly respected and honored by the StL culture. Stories like this one are what prevent good people from moving here and incentivizes the talented to move out. The StL attitude, particularly the apathy and the refusal to grow up (where did you go to high school?), permits these type of hideous developments which define the city and region. And leadership here continues to wonder why the inner core of the region continues to have a depopulation problem…

  17. Matt says:

    To be fair, STL City population seems to have for all intensive purposes stabilized. You have a good point, the continued successes we are seeing in STL City are contingent upon a rising backlash against the entrenched STL culture, which has decanted itself somewhat from STL City, creating more opportunities. They seem to want to come back with the rest of us, and we won’t have them here. Its time to bring more Chicago people in to help us do it right this since many of the incompetent locals like McKee have dropped the ball.

  18. Matt says:

    (or at least smaller local guys who have shown they know what they are doing)

    i just don’t believe that McKee has the competence to rebuild sections of this city on a nuanced and urban block by block basis. he’s already screwing up and hasn’t built a damn thing.

  19. crackity bones says:

    of course McKee has an opportunity to do it really right, rehab all existing structures and build smart infill

    and still make big bucks

    place your bets

  20. Scott O. says:

    Franzooonnnneeeeee ! !

  21. GMichaud says:

    Rather than reproduce what exists simply to make money, ideas and philosophy in the form of new urban forms is appropriate: new transit, energy savings efforts on a regional scale, and different patterns of city living and building. I have to agree with Mayor Bloomberg of New York, change means new economic opportunities.
    McKee and his group cling to the car culture. That is how they made their money and they don’t want to see it go away.
    We are at War for Gods Sake! The Iraq war is about oil as much as anything. Soldiers are dying. McKee and his committee will no doubt claim to be great patriots, but they don’t mind sacrificing young men and women so they can continue their unsustainable actions.
    If they have better ideas, okay, but success by buying all the public officials in the way, is, in a word, corrupt.
    The problem is that while their methods allow them to maintain their status quo, in the end their methods undermine the innovative nature of capitalism. This in turn extinguishes new ideas. McKee and his friends represent the ultimate stagnation of capitalism and of America.

  22. Joe Frank says:

    Is the Urban Choice Coalition really active these days, anyway? I remember hearing a lot about them when they first started up, largely in response to the series of 1998-99 Post-Dispatch stories on urban sprawl… but little since.

  23. Jeff says:

    Props to Andrew Weil on his great letter to the editor in yesterday’s Post-Dispatch.

  24. KMS says:

    so, steve, any thoughts on the fact that the p-d story on all this doesn’t name the arch city chronicle for breaking this months ago or you for covering this?

  25. Kaylyn says:

    Wrong…he's the one who gets it. A city needs a viable quality of life and an increased population that generates a viable TAX BASE. Maybe Kasas City will make a fbeliever out of us with the recent closing of their schools…they too have lost population and TAXES. Somebody has to pay for what we all need.

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