After hearing opinions from about a dozen individuals, many of them residing in the Labadie area, as well as making a few notations of its own, the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night decided to take a month to digest the comments before possibly making a recommendation to the county commission regarding the updated master plan.
The public comment portion took up more than half of the meeting in the county government center in Union as residents mainly expressed concerns about changing the area of the proposed county’s land-use map where Ameren Missouri houses its power plant along the Missouri River near Labadie. Currently, the map lists that land-use area as “utility.” The updated version names that future land use as “industrial.”
Currently, the land is zoned agricultural with a nonconforming use for the power plant.
Senior Planner Scottie Eagan took the first 40 minutes of Tuesday’s meeting to read the implementation strategies of the master plan, which focuses on eight specific areas and goals and objectives for each. The areas of focus are land use, agriculture, housing and neighborhoods, transportation, stormwater and water resources, utilities, solid waste and economic development.
Then, the public unleashed their opinions with most people who spoke verbally assaulting parts of the plan, which would replace the current one in its entirety if approved by the Franklin County Commission, which has the final say.
“The purpose of the master plan is to prepare for the future, building on an awareness of what has happened in the past,” the introduction to the plan reads. “Franklin County continues to grow, and the demographic makeup and economic characteristics of the county continue to change. As characteristics change, the needs of Franklin County residents also change. This plan builds on Franklin County’s past while also acknowledging the future needs.”
It continues by stating that “the mission of master planning in Franklin County is to provide for the orderly growth and development of Franklin County.”
The county planning and zoning department requested the county planners review the proposed document and make a recommendation to the Franklin County Commission. The planners have the option to leave the plan as is or make any changes they deem appropriate. The new plan has been in development since 2009.
When board chairman Bill Evans opened the public hearing for comments, 12 people spoke. The majority of them were from either Labadie or Villa Ridge.
“There’s a general concern about opening the door to industrial development on the (Missouri) river,” Gerry Friedman of Labadie told the county planners. “Franklin County in future planning should be more forward thinking if we want to protect the river. Industrial leads to industrial zoning. Once the door is open, it’s difficult to close it to other opportunities.
“You need to do everything you can in your future planning to prevent it (industrial) from expanding. This is going in the wrong direction.”
Eagan said that the purpose of the meeting is not zoning, but to talk about the master plan, including future land uses for the county. She also said approval of the plan would not change the zoning of the power plant. It simply would rename the type of future land use to industrial.
Kay Genovese also expressed her concerns.
“Ameren is in the Labadie Bottoms and zoned agricultural,” she said. “That’s the only thing that’s held them (Ameren) in check. I’d like to see Franklin County remain as agricultural as possible.”
She then said if the county changes the future land use there to industrial, “how could the county say no to the next developer?
“I think it’s a very dangerous step,” Genovese said. “How can you say how important agriculture is and then open the door like this?”
According to the new plan, which used 2007 U.S. Census information, 50.8 percent of land in the county is classified as agriculture. It also states that about 92.8 percent of land in the county is unincorporated.
Eric Reichert of Villa Ridge wanted to know why the current master plan was being replaced.
“What parts of the old plan are defective? he said. “Is the new plan mandated by law?”
Planning and zoning attorney Mark Vincent responded by saying that an updated plan is not mandated by law but the county “has the right to review and amend it.”
Language in the plan states that “Franklin County’s mandate to plan derives from the Missouri state statutes as follows: ‘The county planning commission shall prepare an official master plan of the county for the purpose of bringing about coordinated physical development in accordance with the present and future needs. The official master plan shall be developed so as to conserve the natural resources of the county, to insure efficient expenditure of public funds and to promote the health, safety, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants.’”
“The central part of the issue is why the current plan is deficient,” Reichert said. “I can find nothing in the current plan that’s deficient. This new plan will throw this (current) one in the trash, and that’s not in the best interests of Franklin County.”
The brief comments made by the planners centered on buffer zones between land uses and transportation strategies.
After all the public comments were heard, Evans said that the board “seems to have heard significant input to take the time to review this.”
Board member Eva Gadcke, the county’s highway administrator, made a motion that unanimously was approved that the county planners review the document and take into account the opinions shared during the meeting as well as any received in the planning office and to bring the plan up again in August.