Q&A: Richmond Heights to Host Sustainability Kickoff

Jennifer Howland with the East-West Gateway Council of Governments answers questions about the effort to coordinate housing, transportation and other areas of sustainability. The project also includes Clayton, and a public meeting is planned Thursday.

and residents are among the St. Louisans being asked to give input Thursday about how several cities can coordinate housing, transportation and other areas of sustainability over the coming decades.

Locally, the project known as the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD) includes Brentwood, Maplewood and Shrewsbury. Residents are encouraged to give their input at a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at community center. In addition, a brief online survey is available.

Patch asked sustainability planning manager Jennifer Howland with the East-West Gateway Council of Governments to explain the project, its costs and projected outcomes for the St. Louis area.

In three sentences or fewer, explain why St. Louisans should take time to attend the March 15 community meeting about sustainable development and/or others like it.

The Mid-Metro 5 CPA (Community Planning Area) meeting on March 15th is an opportunity for residents of Clayton, Richmond Heights, Maplewood, Brentwood and Shrewsbury to share their ideas about what they want for the future of their community.

Attendees with leave the meeting with a better understanding of how their community fits into the broader regional context, how their views compare to those of their neighbors and how they can influence the development of a plan to help the St. Louis region continue to thrive over the next 30-plus years.  


What makes an activity of city government sustainable? In other words, can you talk about two or three sustainable practices already in use in the St. Louis area that the initiative would like to expand upon or develop further?

This planning effort will build upon existing local best practices by encouraging communities to work together to share resources where feasible and beneficial.  It also involves building upon existing regional planning efforts, including the coordinated planning for roads, bicycle and pedestrian access, transit, sewers and housing.  


In what areas is the St. Louis area most lacking when it comes to sustainable practices?

These meetings will be helpful because residents will have an opportunity to define what they think is needed in their own communities.  


When did this initiative get started, and how long will it last? How much will this initiative cost over its lifetime? Who is funding the initiative, and what kinds of things will the money be used for (e.g. surveys, focus groups)?

The project officially started in February 2011, and it is scheduled to wrap up by February 2014. We received a $4.68 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Sustainable Housing & Communities.  The funding is allocated to a variety of projects, including among many other things, public engagement, transit-oriented development studies, developing an online data portal and preparing a regional plan based on local community needs, values and goals. 


Why have Mid-County cities such as Clayton and Richmond Heights been selected to participate in this project?

The 11 Community Planning Areas (CPAs) throughout the St. Louis region were selected through a nomination and application process.  Nominations were solicited from the RPSD Steering Committee and interested community stakeholders. East-West Gateway staff analyzed demographic data across the region to ensure that nominated areas would be representative of the diverse places and people in the St. Louis region.

In order to ensure that nominated CPAs were willing to participate in the RPSD process, an application was developed to assist with determining which CPAs to select. After evaluating the applications received, the recommended set of CPAs was approved by the Steering Committee and finally by the East-West Gateway Board of Directors

My understanding is that the planning document developed through this initiative will be optional—in other words, cities can decide whether or not to follow its guidelines regarding sustainability. Why are East-West Gateway, St. Louis County and other entities investing time and money in developing a plan document that cities aren't required to adopt?

As a regional planning agency, East-West Gateway believes it has an obligation to the region's residents to invest time and money in planning for the future of the St. Louis region. Without careful planning, decisions about things like infrastructure investments, land use and economic development could be uncoordinated and lead to a future that was not intended. 

Even though the scope of the planning effort is regional, we believe that incremental (and therefore sustainable, long-lasting) change must happen at the local level, too. The RPSD will provide local communities will the tools needed to carefully consider what changes they could employ to realize the future they desire.  We think the most important service we can provide is to make information available so our residents can make their own choices.  


Describe some of the tangible changes that St. Louisans will see in their communities as a result of these community meetings. Over what time period will these changes be implemented?

There will be four (4) rounds of community meetings over the course of the next year, and each will build off of the lessons learned from previous meetings.  The input we gather from participants will be used to develop alternatives for future development in each CPA and tools like model ordinances that can be implemented at the local level.  In the end, the work done at the local level will inform the recommendations made in the regional plan.  Remember this is a plan, so it provides a framework for future action.  


Have other U.S. communities have engaged in a similar planning process? If so, what changes resulted?

The grant we received from HUD was the first of its kind, so the results of this particular type of planning effort are not yet available. About 45 metropolitan regions are engaged in similar efforts.

Mark Cockson March 12, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Good questions from the Patch editors in trying to "pin down" this slippery planning process! Mark Cockson


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