Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Conflict in suburban St. Louis

There's an interesting hubbub going on in Wildwood, Mo., a vast and mostly undeveloped suburban city about five miles from where I live.  Inspired by the New Urbanism movement, Wildwood was formed 17 years ago to prevent the sort of suburban development that had been seen in the rest of St. Louis county.  To achieve this, the city drew up a master plan that has guided development ever since.  A major component of the master plan is to restrict commercial development to an area called the Town Center.  I'm not much of an advocate for New Urbanism, but if Wildwood wants to pursue it for itself, then fine.

Now it appears that what was meant as a plan for controlled development has been captured by those opposed to any development.  Thus, the city (or elements of its government) wants to restrict development even on land that is within the boundaries of the Town Center, where commercial development is meant to be allowed, and even encouraged.  The Post-Dispatch article misrepresents the conflict by framing it as one between New Urbanists and crazed developers.  It is not.  It is between New Urbanists and those opposed to any further development. New Urbanism is perfectly compatible with development, but the development is meant to be controlled within dense pockets.