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Manchester Stalling on Plan to Improve Manchester Road

Manchester’s Planning and Zoning Commission says the Great Streets Initiative has too many unanswered questions.

Manchester’s Planning and Zoning Commission listened to a lengthy presentation on how the could improve Manchester Road Monday night, but members are unwilling to fully back the idea at this time.

The Great Streets Initiative is a 30-year master plan sponsored by the East-West Council of Governments that proposes to smooth out traffic problems on Manchester Road west of Highway 141, while making the surrounding communities more attractive to residents and shoppers.

The plan would address improvements to 7 miles of Manchester Road that run through Manchester, Winchester, Ballwin, Ellisville and Wildwood. The plan seeks to fix traffic congestion on Manchester Road by removing many of the “curb cuts,” or access points to the street, and encouraging the development of pedestrian-friendly town centers. Side streets would need to be improved so that motorists could access stores and businesses from behind the main road. The plan also seeks to beautify Manchester Road by moving utility lines and adding uniform street lights, road signs and sidewalks.

Franz Kraintz, director of Planning, Zoning and Economic Development for Manchester, gave the presentation on Monday. He said that Ellisville has already approved the plan, and Wildwood is close to doing the same. Ballwin and Winchester are set to discuss the plan in May, he said. The backers of the Great Streets Initiative are no longer seeking a memorandum of understanding between the cities, which Manchester refused to sign. They are only seeking a statement of approval from all five cities that will indicated they each agree to move ahead with the project.

Alderman Mike Clement serves as the liaison between the Planning and Zoning Commission and the board of aldermen. He does not vote on planning and zoning issues, but he did caution the Planning and Zoning Commission against making any kind of agreement to the plan without an understanding of how the project would be funded—which has yet to be determined. He said he was against adding any more sales taxes, especially because the Manchester Highlands area is already nearing a 10-percent sales tax to pay for the redevelopment of that shopping area.

“Do we see a funding source in the future? Adding curb cuts, adding back streets? For this look to happen, it’s going to require redevelopment,” Clement said.

City Attorney Patrick Gunn warned against giving too much authority to a multicity committee that would be needed to oversee the plan’s implementation.

“There’s going to be strings attached. We have to be careful, there may be some quid pro quo,” Gunn said.

A Great Streets overseeing committee might want to tell each community what they could and could not do in way of redevelopment, Clement said. Committee member James Labit said that if Ellisville really wanted to show a spirit of unity for its fellow Manchester Road communities, it would tell Walmart “no thanks” and not allow the retailer to build a Super Walmart to compete with one at Manchester Highlands.

Kraintz encouraged the planning and zoning committee to look at some short-term goals, such as uniform lighting, street signs and sidewalks, that would be put into place when the repaves Manchester Road in 2014.

One of the Great Street’s easier to obtain improvements is the addition of uniform signage. Waymarker signs branded with each city’s logo would direct travelers while reminding them which town they are visiting.

Mayor David Willson said many people don’t realized where Manchester is, especially because the Post Office labels residences and businesses with a Ballwin mailing address due to the zip code.

“When we talk of this sense of place, we don’t have that. We need to make us a little more notable--to make it known we’re Manchester. We’re not unincorporated (St. Louis) county,” he said.

Willson encouraged the committee to approve the plan and pointed out that with such long-term goals some of the committee members might not live to see its end. He reminded them that when he was a kid, Manchester Road was still gravel, and in the '60s or '70s no one would have thought Manchester would be the congested thoroughfare that it is today.

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