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Building Moratoriums: When Should Developers Slow Down?

Two communities in the region have OK'ed moratoriums on new development. Is that good policy? Or is it OK to slow down sometimes?

The conservative free-market advocate known as the Show-Me Institute has sounded off this week on two development show-downs in the St. Louis area.

The research/educational institute pushes for free-market approaches to dealing with public policy issues. The object of its ire this week is the decisions by city leaders in Ellisville and Frontenac to impose moratoriums on development in parts of their communities.

In a blog post on its site headlined "We Need A Moratorium On Municipal Development Moratoriums," the institute questioned "Is this an appropriate use of municipal powers?" and answered its own question with, "No, it is not."

In Frontenac, according to while the comprehensive plan is updated for land use regulations."

City officials are concerned about moving too quickly on what limited property they have to redevelop at a key intersection at Lindbergh and Clayton roads.

Meanwhile, in Ellisville, officials are considering (and the planning commission has recommended) a .

A resident spoke out against the plan, saying a moratorium would be "time wasted," when a developer could create jobs and provide sales tax.

How much control should cities have over what's built in town? Are you satisfied with the pace of commercial development in your community? Is it managed well? What is the appropriate role for government in managing commercial development?

George Stair September 04, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Some input from the community and some planning will lead to a better result rather than "every man for himself" development.
Jaycen Rigger September 04, 2012 at 02:12 PM
What does "every man for himself" mean? Do people line up across the street and run to be the first to build something? You might want to think that out a bit. People must purchase lots from those who already own them. Those people must come up with the money to build the building, and then it has to be leased or that same person must fill it with equipment and personnel and product to sell. How is that "every man for himself"? The market will determine what's too much and what isn't. If a developer builds too many properties and no one fills them, eventually those properties will be torn down or sold to others. What say does the city get in how free people use their own property, unless it directly impacts the health and safety of their neighbors?
Suzanne Gundlach September 04, 2012 at 03:16 PM
This is a good question to ask. The conversation needs to take place -- if you were the owner of one of the parcels in this debate, how would you feel about the municipality deciding when or if your property could be developed? This development timeline naturally affects the market value for the sale of said property. Sounds too dictatorial to me.
PaulRevere September 04, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Talk about Taxpayer funded subsidies. Has anyone any concerns that our "Taxpayer Funded Schools" are now subsidizing Solar panel absurdity. Does anyone know WHY the private building would not could not justify the "Real" cost of solar power. So the Government bypasses the private market and Just TAXES the residents to make our Schools the "trial ballonns" of this extremely expensive TAXPAYER FUNDED Projects now used by many Public schools. YES! people you are paying for things NOT cost justified in the private building industry.
E J Anderson September 04, 2012 at 05:41 PM
First part: Perhaps "every man for himself" wasn't the best choice of words, but anyone who says that the market will determine what is and is not too much should look at all of the vacant businesses on Manchester Road between 141 and Clarkson--these communities don't need NEW developments and BIGGER stores, they need an appropriate re-use of properties already zoned for business. The same is true of several stretches of Olive through Creve Coeur and Chesterfield. The fact of the matter is that developers want their own projects from start to finish and are being catered to by municipalities who see new development as the only alternate to higher property taxes for residents when the communities need money.
E J Anderson September 04, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Second Part: The ONLY tax incentive should be given to people who re-develop already vacant properties--why did Schnuck's NEED a new store at Clarkson and Kehrs Mill when they could have moved into the vacant Straub's property at Clayton? Why was the Sansone Group trying to build an assisted living center on a rural residential street in Chesterfield when the Chesterfield Manor property is still available and already appropriately zoned? And why in God's name do we need an outlet mall (or two) built on the floodplain off I-64 west of Olive--where and when does "BUILD, BUILD, BUILD" end?!?!?! If West County communities aren't careful, they will be retail, office buildings, and the tiny little properties no one seems to want and all the residents will move elsewhere and only come here to shop (that is, until the deveolpers invade and conquer THAT area, too!).
Kim C. September 04, 2012 at 08:26 PM
@ E J Anderson - Well said!!!
Kim C. September 04, 2012 at 08:32 PM
The cities aren't saying people can never build in these areas, just that they planning commissions need some time to make sure that the land uses already in place are the appropriate ones and that the amount of certain types of planned uses haven't already been exceeded. Once a developer has an application in process, the city can't change the land use. That has to be done during a time where nothing is actively in the pipeline, really the only way to do that any more is to have a moratorium. I wish Maryland Heights would declare a moratorium in their flood plain, while new land uses and densities were discussed.
Rockwood 25 September 04, 2012 at 08:42 PM
The problem is that "the market" deciding development isn't being charged the true cost of development. Whether out in far-off burbs or in the core, infrastructure can only take so much. After that, more investment by "the government", i.e. taxpayers, end up covering another huge portion, whether or not any gains are attained by the whole. Farmers and long-time landowners/homeowners finding their wells dry and having to invest in deeper wells and lower water supplies are just one small slice of this. The subdivisions filled with people needing water not only for their homes and families, but also using it for lawns, swimming pools, fountains and golf courses have put an extra demand and strain on a system, which becomes painfully evident in a drought. A development, or a group of them, is often built then it becomes evident that the sewers, roads, electric, natural gas and more are not sufficient and need to be expanded, at a cost to society as a whole, not the developer. It is appropriate that governing bodies limit development, especially when facing growing pains from the expenses of previously required additions and vacant properties that could and should be developed first before affecting existing businesses and residents.
Elisabeth Boone September 06, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I'm all for the free market, except that today it's far from free. When municipalities use eminent domain and "blighting" to justify land grabs from private owners, then offer sweetheart tax abatement deals to massive retail chains, it's the (mostly) middle-class residents who pick up the tab while being forced to endure increased traffic, noise, and crime. Recent reports of crimes at the Galleria and Brentwood Square describe the actions of suspects who don't appear to be local residents. Security seems tight at the Galleria, yet the crimes continue as the retail sprawl rolls on. How much of this madness are we willing to tolerate? Would developers be so eager to buy and build if they had to acquire land without the force of eminent domain or blighting? What if they had to pay their fair share of taxes instead of getting big breaks at taxpayer expense? What if they had to live in the congested sprawl they create, with escalating noise and crime? "Free market" doesn't mean "Do whatever you want and damn the consequences." It means that you invest your own money, time, and resources, and you take full responsibility for the consequences. If your plans are sound, they're likely to succeed, and you and your shareholders will enjoy the profits. If your plans are flawed, they may fail, and you'll have to deal with the losses yourself. That's the kind of free market I respect and support. Elisabeth Boone
RDBet September 06, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Well said Elisabeth.
Suzanne Gundlach September 06, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Cheers and support to Elisabeth and EJ Anderson! Yes!
William Braudis September 06, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Other Cities would be well advised to evaluate the real need for additional buildings in a given location. Owners of parcels within a given city limits understand, or, should understand when they purchase these parcels that local government knows best what is needed to be added to their cities enterprise inventory.
Leann Starr November 01, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Great comment...sustainability, not growth, is needed. What is being replaced? What is being added? Does it improve the community? Is it a burden on taxpayers?
Leann Starr November 01, 2012 at 01:00 AM
E J Anderson has made a very important point. Blight occurs when commercial properties (like aging malls) are abandoned in favor of developing new commercial properties from residential areas or farmland. We need to direct developers to transform existing commercial areas in need of redevelopment through zoning restrictions. There is no need to give developers tax incentives to improve commercial properties. They will do this on there own when the municipalities stop paying them to do the wrong thing. The purpose of government is to provide leadership, not handouts to big corporations - TIFS never go to small businesses.

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