Friends & Neighbors,
Well, where to begin.
Many of you have seen the news reports. Yesterday, Walmart informed me the company has decided not to proceed with the Neighborhood Market in Dardenne Prairie. The spokeswoman said they had reviewed the expected return on investment and decided it was not sufficient. A different spokesperson said the decision was based on an evaluation of Walmart’s business throughout St. Charles County, including all its stores.
This project has been under review since February. The first public hearings were conducted in March and continued to every meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission and Board of Aldermen since then so that all citizens would have the opportunity to speak. Only about 10 people came to the many meetings to express opposition. Some opposed any development; some opposed Walmart. Some wanted Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Neither of those companies was interested in opening a store in Dardenne Prairie.
The City worked diligently with the Bopp family representatives (the property owners) and Walmart to encourage a development at the corner of Bryan and Feise Roads that would be an asset to the community. The neighborhood grocery store was to be about 46,000 sq. ft. (smaller than Shop n’ Save) to include a drive thru pharmacy and a feature being introduced in some stores so shoppers could order food on the internet, drive to a waiting area next to the store, and have the groceries brought to and loaded into your car.
We pressed Walmart to go above and beyond the standard industrial box store to design a building that would be more suitable for Dardenne Prairie. Last week the Planning & Zoning Commission approved the design and the site plan at a meeting attended by Walmart’s development engineers, architect, real estate attorney, project manager and PR representative. There was no hint that Walmart would abandon the project the day before the Board of Aldermen were prepared to give final approval to the project.
The Bopp property was zoned for Commercial Development when the its 175 acres were annexed into the City over 3 years ago. The development plan for the Bopp tract that was approved in the prior administration called for 86 acres of commercial development amounting to 770,000 square feet under roof (more than both outlet malls in Chesterfield). The remaining 90 acres remained zoned for residential development.
In recognition that the original plan was ill conceived, the property owners proceeded with a plan to develop 16 acres for commercial use. The Walmart store and gas station were part of that 16 acre commercial development across the street from QT and CVS.
A responsible city government looks ahead to plan and provide for the public’s needs. In Dardenne Prairie we manage the city budget carefully. We live within our means, i.e., our current revenue. We deliver important services (police, road maintenance, parks & recreation) and debt service. In 5 to 10 years, however, the aging streets, sidewalks, and storm sewers will require much more maintenance, repair and replacement than is the case today. When that time arrives we have the choice to let our streets go to pot or to fix them. If we do not have more sales tax revenue by then it will be necessary to raise property taxes. In order to replace the expected sales tax revenue that the Walmart Neighborhood Grocery would have provided, we would need to more than double property taxes. We will need even more revenue than the one store would have provided so it is imperative that we find commercial development that will fit within our community. Failing that, we let our infrastructure deteriorate or we raise property taxes.
In other matters tonight, a delegation of citizens from a subdivision in Ward 3 came to ask the City to help rid their neighborhood of skunks. A couple of people and their dogs have been sprayed during evening walks near their homes. Several others report skunks living on or near their property. Ordinarily, getting rid of wildlife would be a problem for property owners or Home Owner Associations to resolve. Skunks present a unique problem, as you can well imagine. Fees charged by St. Charles County Animal Control to trap and remove skunks come to $80 to $120 per animal. The City will consider taking the lead to solve this unique and potentially expensive problem
The City Parks & Recreation Department is offering Fall youth baseball and softball, Co-ed recreational softball, kickball and wiffle ball leagues. Contact Mathew De Winters (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Prairie Day is scheduled for September 17. Look for more details soon. It will be bigger and more fun than ever!
The next Board of Aldermen meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 3, 2016. Workshop begins at 5:30 and the business meeting begins at 7:00. Come see your City Government at work!
“Shine a Light on City Government”
DAVID C. ZUCKER
City of Dardenne Prairie, MO