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Zoning Error Puts Collinsville IL in Middle of Dispute

Mistakes happen, but they are often costly. The City of Collinsville IL (St. Louis Metro East) is realizing as much. From the Belleville News-Democrat:

The city is facing threats of lawsuits from a new business and from its potential neighbors thanks to an error in a zoning map.

According to City Manager Bob Knabel, the developer sought zoning information about 102 Gaylord Drive before buying it, and was told that it was commercial. The developer later was issued a building permit.

The problem: The zoning map was in error, and the building was in a residential zone.

Now the residents of Gaylord Drive are asking the City Council to stop the construction of a beauty salon in the middle of their residential street.

Oh, not good. No matter which way the city goes they will have a lawsuit on their hands. But the above description of the “middle of their residential street” is not really accurate.


Per Google Maps (and Mapquest) the site in question is on a corner of Gaylord Drive (small street to the left) and a larger arterial street, Vandalia (diagonal upper right to bottom left). As you can see, Vandalia St is lined with suburban commercial establishments in both directions. Residential housing, such as those on Gaylord, also abut Vandalia while some even front on this street. Quite the delima.

The first question I have is if the developer, if they knew it was residentially zoned, could have pursueded the city to rezone the property before purchasing the land? That is, could they have taken out an option and tried to rezone to commercial. Neighbors would have objected but if Collinsville is anything like the rest of the region they would have jumped at the chance to increase their tax base with more commercial property.

The bigger issue is that Vandalia St looks like a hodge podge of pure vanilla suburban development — zero thought as to creating a cohesive streetscape. No wonder the residents object to the end of their street potentially contributing to this nothingness. Vandalia St. is a typical 4-lane arterial with a center turn lane and generic buildings on each side. Both the residential areas and Vandalia St. lack sidewalks so nobody sees the point in walking down the block to one of the nearby establishments.

The developer will likely prevail in court regardless of which side the city takes.


Mississippi River Bridge: Last Option is the Best Option

A proposed new bridge across the Mississippi River is back in the news of late. Missouri and Illinois still cannot agree on how to pay for the bridge “now estimated to cost between $999 million and $1.76 billion.” (P-D 2/1/07). Call me a synic but if they are estimating such a range I’m going to go with the high end or better when the final bill is paid. In no way do I believe that it would come in under a billion. I’m going to go with $1.5 billion.

So we have several choices: the big highway bridge, a more cost-effective “coupler” built near the existing King Bridge and lastly we have a proposal to fix some of the existing interchanges, a new I-64 interchange in Illinois and redo parts of Illinois Route 3. The feds have already earmarked $239 million for the bridge project — money that presumably can go for this work. Interestingly, these little third option strategies are all items that need to be done anyway. I say stop wasting time on the bridge debate and get to work on fixing the areas that need fixing. Get the bottleneck areas resolved. Is this too short term and not the long-range planning I prefer we do? Perhaps.

I still question the “need” for a new bridge, especially one costing over a billion dollars to construct. Keep in mind that the old McKinley bridge will be reopening for traffic (including cyclists) in September connecting just north of downtown to Illinois Route 3 to Granite City and Madison County. This combined with the King Bridge and Eads Bridge into downtown can handle considerable local traffic. The new bridge as proposed will, in my view, simply shift sprawl from the Western edge of our region (St. Charles County) to the far Eastern edge of the region. Proponents say this will help re-center the City of St. Louis within the region. I suppose that is true, but so would curbing the sprawl through various Smart Growth measures employed by other regions. A billion or so would do wonders in the region for curbing sprawl and building more localized transit.

Frankly, if someone wants to buy a big house way out in Illinois and doesn’t like the traffic on I-64 they have several choices. One, move closer so the drive is not so long. They can get off the highway and take local streets that will get them across the river on other bridges besides the Poplar Street Bridge (aka the PSB). They can utilize the excellent MetroLink light rail system that serves a good portion of St. Clair County in Illinois or bus service to the city from Madison County Transit. Perhaps Illinois with its substantial transportation funding could help out Madison County by helping fund their proposed MetroLink extension.

This bridge, if finally built will not grow our region. It will simply shift suburban sprawl around a bit — a zero sum gain for the region. And simply put, the more lanes you build the more volume will increase putting you right back where you started at some point. As we’ve seen in the past, the city will remain a pass-through. Let’s fix the areas that need fixing and then work on moving people & jobs closer to the center — both in Illinois and Missouri.


Circus Day Foundation Offers Lessons in Life & Juggling

Yesterday I attended the annual bike swap meet organized by the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. As always, the event grew ever larger — attracting more vendors and more customers. This year we had entertainment, the St. Louis Arches — a youth circus group that takes classes at the City Museum through the Circus Day Foundation. The foundation’s mission statement:

Circus Day Foundation teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus skills, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.

They answer the question you may be asking, why circus?

Circus is a performing art that children and adults appreciate and value. Circus Day Foundation uses circus arts to teach and inspire children of all ages and backgrounds. Our performances entertain and thrill audiences of all generations with the ageless delight of the circus.

Even more so than other sport, cultural or artistic activities, circus is not associated with any particular race or gender. Many arts or sports activities have either a gender or race bias. Circus combines both art and sports aspects, involving kids who might not normally consider doing anything artistic and kids who might not generally attempt anything physical. Circus has an across-the-board appeal that other sports and artistic fields do not have.

The life skills we learn, as children, are the tools we take with us into adulthood. If we teach children when they are young to overlook differences and focus on similarities, to focus on working together to fix something rather than abdicating responsibility and blaming instead, those skills could result in a more peaceful future. When you are trying to do a human pyramid, you need to know the technique and the terminology so that you and your partner are speaking the same language physically and verbally. You learn fairly quickly, that to succeed in performing the pyramid, you cannot blame each other if something goes wrong but you must figure out what you can do together to make it work. Whoever you are and wherever you are from, there is some circus skill that you can accomplish because circus is an art made up of a variety of skills.

Circus teaches life’s lessons. Participation requires cooperation, individual and group responsibility and control over mind, body and emotions. Children learn these skills through circus arts and apply them to everyday life. Circus teaches the art of life.

You could see it in the kid’s faces, they were having a really good time all the while working hard and really focusing on each other. We were treated to a wonderful show complete with gymnastics, balancing acts and juggling. Since it was a bike show, they concluded their 40-minute or so performance with bike tricks. Enjoy the show:


For more information, including how to become a sponsor, visit circusday.org


5th Annual Bicycle Swap Meet and Classic Bike Show, Sunday January 28, 2007

From my friends at the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation…
5th Annual Bicycle Swap Meet and Classic Bike Show
Hosted by the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation
Sunday, January 28, 2007
12:00 Noon – 3:30 PM

Gateway Center
One Gateway Drive
Collinsville, IL 62234
(just 12 minutes from the Arch)

NEW THIS YEAR: Members of Circus Day Foundation’s St. Louis Arches youth circus troupe will perform using bicycles and unicycles combined with an array of circus tricks and skills at 1:00 p.m.

For more information: e-mail: [email protected], or phone: 314.707.5001
For directions and a map, click here [UrbanReviewSTL: it does say you can get to the center via bus or metrolink but I have not verified the route(s)]

Riding your bike to the Swap Meet? Click here for maps & cue sheet.

$5.50 admission fee starting at noon (free to St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation members and we’ll have a table where you can join at the event. Always free for children under 12)
Early Bird Entry: $10.50 will get you in the door at 10:30 a.m.
All admission fees include a $.50 surcharge for Gateway Center.
Hosted by St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation.

Individuals, bike shops, non-profits, and bike-related businesses will have booths with all sorts of bike related goods. Display your vintage bike, or vote for the best of the classic stingrays, balloon tire, middleweight, and special interest models. Enter a raffle for a brand new reproduction purple Stingray! Expert bike fitter, Tim Ray, will do bike fittings for a fraction of his usual fee. All proceeds from bike fittings will benefit the Bike Fed.
For some additional information and pictures of prior swap meets visit the official website.   To read about some of the 14 bike shops with booths at the meet continue below.
… Continue Reading


Edwardsville Church Votes for Sprawl

Edwardsville’s First Presbyterian Church voted a week ago yesterday to begin construction of a new larger facility on a large tract of land on the edge of town, next door to a mega church. For decades the church has been located in a very cute neighborhood just blocks from Edwardsville’s Main Street and literally around the corner from the Post Office. From their website:

First Presbyterian Church was founded March 17, 1819. It has the distinction of being the first church organized in the city of Edwardsville, and one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in Illinois…. Construction on our third and current home of worship took place in 1924. A large Christian education annex was added in 1960. Several improvements including the elevator, and a covered courtyard called “The Inner Room” were completed in association with the 175th Anniversary celebration in 1994.

Apparently some years ago the church purchased a 30 acre tract of farmland on the outskirts of town  as an investment. Indeed, the land has increased in value as expected but now a faction of the church wants to relocate to the sprawling edge- to be more “visible” in the community. With a vote of roughly 90 to 68 they’ve decided to begin the process of building a new church and apparently make plans for a gym. Visibility in the community no longer means being in the midst of a neighborhood in the center of town where a pedestrian might be alble to hear your service as they pass by but on a busy road where motorists can read your flashing sign from hundreds of yards away. Some look at sprawl and auto-centric development as a reaction to poor inner-city schools and white flight, but neither are the case in Edwardsville where they have a single school system and are nearly 90% white (87.7% per 2000 census data). So what explains all their sprawl? Auto-centric development has become completely ingrained in our society from homeowners, business owners, developers, bankers, architects & engineers to elected officials. Sprawl is the norm. What does it say about our society when a church votes to leave a charming neighborhood adjacent to an equally charming small town main street? Normal Rockwell would paint a picture of the current setting but wouldn’t go near where they plan to locate. Sadly, all the moves to the edge are ruining what was a picturesque landscape. I’m certainly not going to tell people what sort of faith to have but I will question the motives of a church for leaving the place where they’ve been for decades simply for a big parking lot, a gym and visibility on the scale of a fast-food restaurant. Churches have an important role as part of the community, not helping destroy the community by bolting to the suburban fringe. I talked with a couple of the members just days before the vote, they were hoping to stay put. Some members of other nearby Edwardsville churches were also lending support as they collectively want to strenghten the core of Edwardsville rather than see it left behind as sprawl engulfs the nearby farmland. I hope those that wish to stay in the center of Edwardsville do so, including their money. The suburban group may not be able to raise the $3.8 million they need to build their gym with attached santuary (in phase II). Update @ 8:10am — By the way, I forgot to mention that FBC’s architects are St. Louis Design Alliance which has offices on the Delmar Loop near the MetroLink stop.




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