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Auto-Centric Strip Mall in City Adds Pedestrian Access

Just a few weeks ago the curbs were in place for the auto drives/parking at the new auto-centric strip mall, located technically across the street from the Soulard neighborhood (see prior post). As of October 21st, no visible signs of any pedestrian access had been made — it was as if it was assumed everyone would simply drive to this location even if you could see the place from your home a block away.


From another angle we can see, below, the curbs all in place and simply ready for the asphalt.


Myself and others objected to the suburban design, no doubt. But lacking a single sidewalk connection was just too much — people in the city do in fact walk.


Today, above, we see that a short section of sidewalk was added between the public sidewalk and the auto drive. The newly poured curbs were cut out and replaced with accessible ramps. Although I have not checked the ramps for precise compliance at first glance they appear to comply. See there, it wasn’t so hard was it?

Does this new accessible entrance make this project urban? Hardly. Does it make the project minimally tolerable until it can be razed for something worthy of being in our city? Yes! Why something so simply as a few feet of concrete and assumption that people will in fact seek out a walkable environment (although this is not technically a good walkable environment) it not required from day one is beyond me. This is not difficult and for a subsidized project this should be the very minimal that is acceptable.

Thank you to everyone that express their outrage over this lack of pedestrian access and the overall suburban nature of this design.  Hopefully we’ll make enough developers come back and modify their designs to add pedestrian access that at some point they’ll just ask for it up front!  Of course, you’d think their architects and engineers would just include it to begin with —- it is a federal requirement after all.

As of this time the Starbuck’s, a separate structure at the far end, still does not seem to comply with the ADA standards for accessibility.


BPS Denies Larry Rice’s Request for a Conditional-Use Zoning Permit

IMG_4276.JPGThis afternoon St. Louis’ Board of Public Service met to hear numerous issues related to zoning. One of the items was an application from Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center to open an energy center in an old commercial building located in the middle of residential block in South city.
Numerous neighbors came out strong in opposition earlier this month. Ald. Kirner, who initially supported the project, changed her mind once her constituents began to speak out against the proposal.

Rice may appeal today’s decision to the Board of Adjustment.


Larry Rice’s Conditional-Use Zoning Request to be Decided by BPS Today

This afternoon staff of the Board of Public Service will give their recommendation to the Board of Public Service regarding the request by Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center for a conditional use permit to operate an Energy Center in an otherwise residential block.  Earlier this month a hearing was held where Rice and others spoke for or against the zoning request.  Today’s meeting is just that — a meeting.  No new testimony will be hear.  The staff will present their recommendation and a decision will be made.


Above, Rice held another fair on this past Saturday.  The public was invited to this event but at this time Rice had not secured necessary approvals to hold such events.  This image was taken in the morning as they were setting up.


Rice had reinstalled his sign, also not yet approved, for the Saturday fair.


The white “sculpture” was actually a left over from a prior owner.  But the signs leaning against them are part of Rice’s instructional materials.


Later in the day, as they were closing up, I went by again on my way home.  Numerous vehicles were parked on the grass in the area where he wants to put an 18-car parking lot (original drawings submitted by Rice showed 38 cars).


I suppose out in the boondocks, where Rice has other energy centers, parking on fields is commonplace.  But not so much in residential neighborhoods.
The meeting is to begin at 1:45pm this afternoon in room 208 of City Hall.  I suspect the staff will recommend denial of the request and the Board of Public Service will agree.  If so, Larry Rice can appeal the decision to the Board of Adjustment.  Conversely, if NLEC gets their conditional use permit an aggrieved citizen can appeal to the Board of Adjustment.  I’m sure the citizens in the area will appeal if Rice prevails today, the big question is what will Rice do if he loses?


Additional Notes from Hearing on Energy Center

Yesterday’s meeting on the conditional use application for the Energy Center to be operated by the New Life Evangelistic Center was interesting to say the least.  To clarify, it was only about the zoning for the use of the former florist shop & greenhouse.

Larry Rice spoke on behalf of his plan for the property, calling for “healing” between the white and black communities in St. Louis.  He commented that at last week’s informational meeting there was not a black person in the room (true) — implying this is some sort of white bias I guess.  Interestingly, the first person to speak against the energy center was a black homeowner that lives across the street from the property in question.

Rice, at one point, indicated the property looked better than it did a year ago.  This is certainly true, I’ve known the place since 1994 and it has never looked better.   Rice said the neighbors loved the improvements they had made, that they had cut down high weeds and fixed broken greenhouse glass that was inherited from the previous owner.  But Rice only bought the property in July of this year — after improvements had been made and grass cut.  The previous owner, Susan Jansen, is one of his supporters and she was seated in the row behind him.  His remark confirmed my suspicion — Rice bought the property last November but in Jansen’s name rather than New Life Evangelistic Center.  He views the previous owner as the one Jansen purchased it from.

A Post-Dispatch story posted yesterday following the meeting with a headline “Residents mad about Rice’ center” included this near the end:

After the hearing, Rice said he was dismayed at his opponents’ anger that’s built up over the last month.

“I’m  sensing a hostility directed at homeless people I haven’t seen in 35 years,”  said  Rice.  “I  grieve over the bitterness and fear I’m seeing in south St. Louis.”

Today the online version drops the above.  The new headline is  “Rev. Rice gets hammered by Dutchtown residents at hearing.”  New in this version is:

The property includes a former flower shop with a greenhouse and the house next door. Rice bought them over the summer for $216,000.

Rice said if he doesn’t get the permits, he’ll appeal the city’s decision. He said if his appeal fails, “we’ll use it as transitional housing or low-income housing.”

Terrell Eiland, a zoning specialist with the St. Louis department of public safety who chaired the hearing, said that Rice would need another permit to operate the property as a residence for multiple people.

Again, just to clarify the property that was under consideration for a conditional use permit yesterday was only the storefront and greenhouse — not the old frame house and open land.  Ironically Rice has said numerous times that you can’t house people in a greenhouse — it is too hot.  Certainly a logical statement.  So would he invest additional money to raze the storefront and greenhouse to build some sort of group home?  Doubtful.

Following the meeting Ald. Kirner asked me how everyone did.  I agreed that everyone, including her, did a good job.  I thanked her for withdrawing her prior support.  Still, I don’t think even Larry Rice should be subjected to our changes with the wind form of approval/non-approval from our elected officials.  This is not to say that Kirner should support the project because she earlier expressed support.  But while claiming that she must listing to constituents now, why weren’t they consulted before?  Conditional use zoning for any business that brings in large quantities of people to a residential block is something that at least the owners on that block need to be consulted on before approval is given.

A question that remains for me is if the city will allow him to operate his “energy fair” that he has already scheduled for October 27th from 10am to 2pm?  This is probably a question for our new public safety director, Charles Bryson.  Maybe it should go on — it would make an interesting backdrop for a protest along the public sidewalk in front of his property.


Blogging From The Conditional Use Hearing On Energy Center

This post is regarding the conditional use hearing for Larry Rice’s Energy Center in the Dutchtown Neighborhood (see prior post). I’m blogging from the meeting as it is underway. Updates will be added below in reverse order (oldest at the bottom).

10:10am: People are still talking outside the hearing room, reporters were getting quotes. I’m signing off now for a couple more meetings — I’ll have more later today.

9:55am: Post meeting notes. The opposition was strong. We all signed a sheet that we were hear to speak against the conditional use so it could be submitted since we were not all able to speak. The conditional use was only on the storefront & greenhouse — not the full property.

9:40am: Testimony is concluded. A decision will be reached later with the answer being mailed out.

9:33am: Ald Kirner withdrew her prior support.

9:31am: Only five people have been allowed to speak. The city’s staff person indicated that no further testimony will be taken. Many took off work to come to the meeting but they will not be heard. Ald. Kirner gets the last word before Rice.

9:26am: Downtown Dutchtown president Caya Aufiero spoke in opposition. I’ll provide a copy of their well-worded later.

9:21am: One person spoke in favor the energy center. Opposition is now beginning testimony starting with a neighbor across the street.

9:19am: City staff person raises issue about Rice’s sign for the business which has already been posted. He asks Rice if he has applied for a sign permit. Rice indicates he has not applied for a sign permit.

9:15am: Larry Rice indicates he has traveled all over the country taking classes on alternative energy. Has taken “8 courses” at the Solar Energy Institute.

9:10am: Larry Rice is now presenting his case.

9:05am: Representatives of both the Mayor’s office and the President of the Board of Aldermen are among the audience.

8:50am: Hearing is underway with other items on the agenda. The room is not full but there are more people here in opposition than in favor. Alderman Kirner is sitting among those opposed. The process is one person from the city asking questions of the applicant, the proceedings are audio recorded. Following the applicant there is a chance for anyone else supporting the application to speak. Then opposition gets to have a say. The applicant and one person from the opposition can speak briefly to close. The interesting thing is the opposition is not a collective group but simply a bunch a individual home owners — not sure how one person will be selected. More as it develops.