Thursday, June 29, 2006

Celebrate Your Independence By Blowing Up Some of Your Tax Dollars

The Mayor will be presiding over a few family events, the backyard construction and a few cold ones over the holiday.  Join me and the First Family tomorrow at the JB Blast with music by Fanfare from 5 to 9 p.m. and fireworks after the concert.   Your Affton Chamber of Commerce is one of the sponsors.  Lawn seating is available and coolers full of intoxicating goodness are encouraged. The event begins at 5 p.m. Friday at Jefferson Barracks Park, South Broadway and Kingston Drive, Lemay. The event is free. For more information call 314-849-6499.

Sale of Grant’s Farm Imminent?

The Grantwood Villagers’ blog is reporting today that rumors abound that Grant’s Farm could be on the selling block.  See the post here and I’ll let you know if I get to the bottom of this.

The Grass Could be Greener

The Mayor attended a conference on Sustainable Development this morning hosted by the Urban Land Institute.  Most of the discussion was old hat for the Mayor as I am well aware of the concepts that create such developments.  What was enlightening was to see actual reports and data that proved the return on investment to developers that choose to “go green”.  A representative from Clayco explained that there was a 1%-5% premium for designing sustainable properties, but what developers are now interested in is the dollar savings over time as the buildings are completed.  From his perspective, green building is booming in St. Louis and starting to catch on across the country.

The keynote address by Ed McMahon (not the one of Johnny Carson and sweepstakes fame) of the Urban Land Institute touted many of the claims taught in my Urban Planning training.  He called fighting development a “national pastime” and I could not help but think of Affton’s own Angry Villagers fighting the Villages at Grant’s View project.  

While clearly ours is a suburban style project, whose design style has come and nearly gone as it is innately unsustainable, I’ll allow it as it is within the context of the current developments.  However we need to be arguing for things like increased access to Grant’s Trail for its health benefits and smarter parking and road design to decrease the runoff from the project.  I think these are things that would benefit The Grantwood Village People, the new residents, the ladies at Cor Jesu, and folks downstream from us on Gravois Creek.  I think a lawsuit-battered developer will be far less likely to sit down and discuss these topics which will ultimately benefit more people in the long run.  McMahon cited a National Assn. Of Realtors’ study from 2002 that noted that 36% of homebuyers preferred their home to be near a walking or nature trail versus 6% that wanted to live on a golf course.  To me, this shows that largely, people will support development that is increasingly more dense.

Stone Walled!

For those of you who asked, the stone wall coming down east of McNary Drive is nether because of the proposed development NOR your friends at MoDot. While it was believed that they were removing the wall as part of their right-of-way for the redevelopment of the Gravois Creek bridge in 2008, I have confirmed with one of their project engineers that it is not their doing! More on this later as I investigate.

(Further, I am not so supportive of their desire to close the Thurman Ave. bridge in the Shaw neighborhood of the City.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gravois Creek Bridge and Grant's View Development

Well, two days ago the Mayor had a huge post prepared for you and Firefox's browser decided to crash and lose everything. I will recap for you now.

Last Thursday I went to the MoDOT open house. They are planning on reconstructing the Gravois Creek bridge just west of Grant's Trail and McNary Drive. The new bridge will have five lanes and a new signal. The work will take two months if they close Gravois completely. If they keep one lane open in each direction, it will be drawn out to six months. They were showing off a very nerdy and cool software called Sim Traffic that takes known traffic data and simulates what traffic would look like under altered conditions. Believe me. No one wants to see what it looks like on Laclede Station Road with that traffic backed up. I supported the full closure. It will be the dead of winter in 2008 and there will not be that many folks using the trail (which will remain unaffected.) My only complaint was a sidewalk on the south side that seemed to connect to nothing.

The big coup of the weekend was the arrival at the Mayor's Office of a huge package of architectural site plans for the Villages at Grant's View. One of the site plans was shown at the last ACBA meeting, so I asked the County Planning Dept. for a copy. I got 8 huge pages that will be nearly impossible to scan. I'll do my best to detail the plans here. Here's a map to get you oriented.

The latest revision of the plans call for 434 dwelling units. This is split into two areas of development: The 193 single family homes and 76 attached villas hug Musick Road on the West, and the very northwest corner at Gravois (about 1/2 of the area from Musick to McNary). Everything in front of Affton Athletic to the north is open common ground most likely as it is flood plain. There are two entrances to this part of the development, both on Musick Road.

The 164 condo units occupy the area east of McNary ajacent to Cor Jesu and bounded on the west by Grant's Trail. Access as it is shown right now is only via Gravois.

OTHER MAJOR POINTS: There is no access to McNary Road via Cor Jesu. This needs to get worked out, because according to Cor Jesu, their land deal rested on the fact that they got a signalized intersection in front of their place. MoDot says "no way" as they don't want signals within about 1000 ft. of one another as it never works. I point to the newly redone intersection of Laclede Station/Watson and Heege as a glowing example.

The developer is putting a sidewalk in along Musick and all the way down Gravois. This may also go as far as Laclede Station Rd. if they get the land for free to improve. I'm in support of this as it will increase access to the Trail. I think Trailnet will support this as well as long as there is not a vehicular crossing over the trail.

I am largely in support of this development. I know there are a few votes at risk here for me, but there is unquestionably a demand for new housing in inner ring suburbs. Price points on the condos are rumored to start about $150,000 which is similar to some of Affton's older single family homes. In addition, these units will likely sell at a high price which will benefit the surrounding residents. While I agree that it is a dense development, I don't think that anything can be too dense if there is enough demand for it to sell. Further, this will turn into a whole lot of new voters in Affton!

The Grantwood Village People have recently filed suit against the County to delay the development. (Ironically, not only has the name of the development changed, but so too has the name of the opposition to "Grassroots on Gravois".) To quote The Angry Villagers' blog when the developers changed their name: "BS by any other name is still BS, so we won't be fooled!!"

While I support their right to fight this development, I think they are going to suffer a major defeat if they mount a full-on lawsuit. Fortunately, I don't think they will get the chance. Since they are fighting the County, they now need a certain number of petition signatures from basically all over the county to take it to court. I think they will not succeed in this effort. Further, I think their lack of focus on the issues has muddied their chances. Here's a snip from their blog calling folks out to a meeting just over a month ago. Their issues are listed with my comments afterward. I think this shows that most of their issues have been dealt with or were ridiculous to start with:

TRAFFIC 900+ cars
(Your Mayor did the math on this. In most units the development allows 1.5 parking spaces per dwelling unit plus .5 spaces for guest parking. They have more than ample parking, meaning more than required by law totalling 928 spaces. However I think it unlikely that EVERY single space, including ALL guest parking spaces, will ever be used simultaneously. I think it less likely that they will all be on Gravois at the same time either.)

SAFETY Grant Bike Trail potential hazard
(Potential, yes, but the plan in my hands shows no access to McNary Rd. I think the developer would rather not have a grade crossing at Grant's Trail either.)

DENSITY 438 units (3 story high condos) 3 and 4 attached Villas
(I have no idea what the Angry Villagers have against 3-story buildings. The density arguement is only strong if they point to a number of people per acre and say that it is too high.)

FLOODING rain water run off/ sewage waste into the environment
(I'm all for less pavement in the world, but I don't think that government environmental agencies are about to let anything in this highly scrutinized development sneak by. On what evidence do they think that sewage is going into Gravois Creek or being treated differently then sewage anywhere else?)

(I'd estimate that about 1/3rd of this is greenspace as it is in the flood plain. In section 4 of the plans, it outlines the possibility of Recreational Uses permitted by leasing the common ground area for parks, picnic areas, trail access and so on, as long as it's approved by County Planning and the Parks Dept.)

POOR DESIGN aggressive uniform linear alignment
Proposed curb cuts at Glenshire and Charrette with interior connecting street

(Now the Mayor has been a student of Urban Planning and I've never even heard of "aggressive uniform linear alignment" so I Googled it. All I found was help with algebra equasions. As for the curb cuts, they are exactly the same width and shape as the two streets mentioned. Do they also suffer from "poor design"?)

Hopefully my point is well taken that had the Angry Villagers a real case here, they would have been sticking to the point from the get-go. If the issue is density, it should have a number attached to it and they should be fighting for that number. All the other issues they had seem to have been mitigated haven't they?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

REMINDER: Gravois Creek Bridge Public Hearing Tonight

As the headline says, if you drive on Gravois near Grant's Farm, you need to charge up your Rascal or Lark Scooters now so you can attend tonight's public forum on the proposed construction which should start late this winter.

Your friends at MoDOT will be presenting the options and hearing your input. So PUT OUT!

Affton White Rogers Commty. Center between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where the Cool Kids Are

Your Mayor was once accused by an infamous St. Louis blogger of accepting cold beverages in exchange for my praise of the new QuikTrip on Gravois. While I do like cold beverages, nothing could be further from the truth and I don't want you to think that's the case in this story. I'm writing today to point out how a market opportunity is turning Affton into an attractive place for young professionals to experience our community for the first time.

I turn your attention, my 21-and-up Afftonians, to the historic Ten Mile House at 9420 Gravois. Since the demise of Frederick's Music Lounge at Kingshighway and Chippewa, the alt-country-punk cool kids have not really had a place to call their own once the sun went down. Enter the booking agents at the Ten Mile. In recent months, the bills at the venue have gotten significantly better. Better bands are starting to creep into the lineup.

If this continues, and they work to actively seek out the best up-and-comers, they could really capture most of Frederick's scenesters. It's not easy as there is a fine and gray line between "hoosiery bands" and bands that are hoosiery with tongue firmly in cheek. If the Ten Mile can lean towards the latter, they will win the battle for class, but can they woo the City folks out of the City Limits for a show?

I need to do more investigating, but I think I can attribute this to an old friend of the Mayor, singer songwriter and bad-assed vocalist Jimmy Kennedy (pictured). Jimmy is a regular host of the open mic nights (Thursdays) at the Ten Mile. I have a feeling that he has been cross-pollenating the Fred's crowd and bands with the venue at the Ten Mile. If I can confirm this, I will be issuing official Mayoral proclamations to both Jimmy and the Ten Mile House in thanks for their economic stimulus and excellent timing of the music market.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Life, Death, and Road Construction

Well it's that time of year. (I already posted about parish carnivals, silly.) I'm of course talking about the record number of orange sticks, cones and barrels that litter our roads as summer projects get rolling. The Mayor had a rough day yesterday, I was up late the night before, went to the ACBA meeting yesterday morning, had a death in the family, then attended to family and business matters until after midnight. To top it off, MoDOT was grinding the road surface off out in front of the First Family's house all night long! Needless to say, the Mayor is having difficulty with his "A" game today.

CHECK IT, YO: Our good friend Beth from St. Louis County Economic Council reminded the Mayor's Office that the public hearing is coming up for the reconstruction of the bridge over Gravois Creek near Grant's Farm and the bike trail. The public hearing is between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 22 at the Affton White Rogers Community Center. More info is here.

YE CAN'T SUE WHAT YE CAN'T FIND: The official name of the controversial development going next to Cor Jesu has officially changed. This "came out" in yesterday's ACBA meeting. It is now called "The Villages at Grant's View".

Perhaps this was to keep the Grantwood Village People (pictured) from successfully filing suit against the development.

Rejected names include: "The Villages Formerly Known As The Villages At Gravois Creek" and

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Mayor Goes Postal for Affton Pride

I think like most folks, I have a real love/hate relationship with computers. The First Family's name has an apostrophe in it. Now since the dawn of computers and data entry, no one has clearly stipulated how to enter an apostrophe into a computer. Furthermore many computers simply don't accept apostrophes as part of the written world. There is nothing so annoying as being told that your "tickets are not in our system" or "you do not seem to be our customer" as a result of someone looking for the name in a computer search. TO WIT:

My name regularly shows up as the following on mail and other things:
1) O'Brien (the correct way)
2) OBrien (no apostrophe)
3) O Brien (space lieu of apostrophe)
4) Obrien (auto corrected for Proper Case by computers resulting in lower case "b")

Now my family name goes back a long way into Ireland when Brian Boru was the ruler of the country for 73 years around 1100 A.D. It's a proud tradition and the world has spelled it correctly since his descendants were called "O'Brien" (meaning "son of" Brian or simply "of" Brian's Family.) ALL OTHER INTERPRETATIONS ARE A BASTARDIZATION!!! If you pulled such crap back in the day, you would have met with my sword and had my coat of arms embossed on thy forehead!

I urge everyone in Affton to immediately stop allowing this similar bastardization:

XXXXX Gravois Road
St. Louis, MO 63123

This is a travesty! What I'm getting at is that Affton (or "Aff's Town" as it began) denoted the place that the mail was to be delivered. Although unincorporated, it is STILL WHERE THE MAIL IS TO BE DELIVERED! Affton has it's own post office and it deserves to be recognized as such. Should the Affton High Cougars become the Unincorporated St. Louis County Cougars? I think not. Please folks, let's make it "Affton, MO 63123" the way it should be.

Begin showing your town pride by contacting your creditors, vendors, friends and junk mailers and make them change your address! Furthermore, get new stationary, sticky return labels and address plaques. Our work will be done when someone can get our trash carrier, Allied Waste, to stop putting "LEMAY, MO 63123" on my trash bill. BELIEVE ME. I've tried. I think the Mayor of Lemay built their database.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Extreme Makover: Affton Edition

AFFTON MARKET RESEARCH FACT: Twenty and thirty somethings who grew up in the Affton area and have lived in other areas of St. Louis never want to come back to Affton.

Rationale: They do not see the area as desirable when compared to other areas nearby that have centralized "downtowns," civic organizations, better schools, better housing stock, parks, pools and other public amenities. They also still see the area as being "hoosiery" and strive to disassociate themselves from that image.

On my recent trip to Baltimore, we were joined by an associate of my youngest sister. She is a St. Louisian, 26 years old, and single. Not to my surprise, she found the prospect of relocating to Affton very appealing. She cited the affordability of decent housing as the primary reason for this.

Affton must get out of the box and directly market to these young folks interested in starting families. This is a market segment SORELY underserved by current housing developments as only high-end homes and condos are the primary market. Even better if NON-Catholics are targeted. The realignment of City schools and Catholic parishes are points AGAINST locating families in the City right now. Affton's reasonably low taxes and relatively decent schools can be used to lure folks from fashionable City 'hoods such as St. Louis Hills and South Hampton.

* This represents my own, personal investigative research and not anything the good taxpayers forked out for.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

CMT and Shrewsbury Plan Metrolink Charrette

This just in to the Mayor's desk this morning:
Citizens for Modern Transit is hosting a charrette on June 17 with the help of Shrewsbury Mayor Bert Gates and Alderwoman Donna Baringer to look at the site surrounding the future Shrewsbury-Lansdowne-I-44 MetroLink Station that should open later this year. Transit oriented development will be the focus of the charette. Architects and planners are needed to help with the event. June 17, 2006 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Shrewsbury City Center--5200 Shrewsbury Ave.
MORE INFO: or call 314.231.7272.

N0w many of you have questions about Metrolink, I'm sure, and I'm sure the long hours listed here will not be for residents, but the facilitators. Althought it's put on by our annexation-happy neighbors to the north, consider yourself invited.

This event will NOT be addressing the possibility of Metro's plans to extend this line further south into Affton, rather it will be about increasing connectivity for residents of all the surrounding areas to the station, probably through increased bus service or other options. I highly urge you all to go, especially all you Town Talkers bitching about the price of gas. I myself have been taking my bike on the bus occasionally (using the handy bike racks on the front bumpers) and I have found it very enjoyable and economical. It is likely that I will be serving our community as one of the meeting facilitators, taking your ideas down on paper, so come meet the Mayor and represent!

I Thought It Was Your Turn to Do the Dishes

From the Affton Precinct of the Police blotter as reported in the South County Journal on June 7:

"Burglars stole a dishwasher sometime on June 3 from a home in the 8400 block of Mathilda Avenue. The dishwasher was discovered missing at about dinnertime..."

So there I was, washing up things after dinner when I noticed I was loading the dishes into a 30-INCH GIANT HOLE UNDER MY COUNTER.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Reading from the Letter of St. George

St. George is having their parish carnival this coming weekend. Some things need no embellishment to be funny. Note the use of exclamation points. Verbatim from the St. George parish bulletin this week:
The 2006 St. George Summer fest is ready to roll on June 10, noon until 10 pm! We are very excited to offer the exotic petting zoo this year!! Not only will you have the opportunity to feed and pet the animals - you can ride a CAMEL!! The inflatable activities are going to be a challenge - a climbing mountain, a bungee run, and a defender dome are just some of the offerings! Armbands will be available the day of the picnic. The price for the armband for the child inflatables is $20. The price forthe armband for the adult inflatables is $25. Both the exotic petting zoo and the inflatables will be in operationfrom noon until 6 pm. Admittance to the petting zoo willbe $2.50 for all entering! Test your luck with Bingo at 2pm and again at 6:30 pm!! Come hungry as Hodak’s Chicken Meals will be available from 4 - 7 pm!! After your meal, enjoy the German Band in the German beergarden while munching on chicken wings and peanuts! Now, we all need to pray for GREAT weather!!!
As always, to make this event possible.. WE NEED WORKERS! Some booths, still need a chair… the Chuck-a-Luck, the Bell Ringer/Hammer Booth beingtwo of these! These booths will not be offered if we donot have chairs and workers!

SET UP will begin at approximately 8:30 am on Friday, June 9th and will continue all day long!! WE NEED HELP HERE FOLKS!! Take down will occur on Sunday, June 11th at 8 am.. Again, WE NEED HELP!! Forthose who have tools, we can use not only your body but also your 1/2” deep well socket drill for setup!!
Do you think they need help?
Child armband: $20
Adult armband: $25
Watching the drunk adults Chuck-a-luck Hodak's Chicken Meals from the top of a camel?
Priceless. See you there.

St. Dom's is NOT Serving 3.2 Beer at the Parish Carnival!

My fellow Afftonians, in case you missed it, or were under the weather with the dreaded sinus infection, the parish carnival season is upon us! This is a great tradition in Affton! I was not able to make it to Seven Holy Founders a couple weeks ago, but come hell or high water I am always at the St. Dominic Savio picnic! Whether you are a parent, an aging parishoner, part of the Men's Club, a shut-in, or a middle-schooler learning how to flirt, this picnic is the place for you! I was totally an idiot and forgot to bring the First Lady's camera, but let's just say that between silly string, beer cups and pie throwing, the place looked like a great party.

St. Dominic's is nestled among a great neighborhood of homes built in the mid 1950's just north of Heege on Mackenzie. It is also the First Lady's former grade school. Your Mayor had the honor of sharing a few rounds of Break-A-Plate and Krazy Kans with some of the constituency. I was also recognized by a very young voter as I entered the Super Slide.

In addition to the games of skill, I presided over a few cold beers sent to me by the First Father-in-Law. I appreciate that the Catholics know that fully alcoholic beer makes a great party. Your Mayor was formerly a resident of Webster Groves and I know for a fact that the Webster Lions Club is serving 3.2 beer (or "near beer") for outrageous prices at the huge festival they do over July 4th weekend at the Webster Rec Plex. This controversy once made the Webster-Kirkwood Times when a new vendor wanted to sell wine and the Lions Club opposed the measure saying they had an exclusive on alcoholic drinks and "weren't getting anyone drunk anyway" and that serving wine would cause drunken chaos.

I really want to hand it to whomever had the good taste to book Mid-Rock Crisis as the band this year. As one who is highly critical of live music, I have to say that I was impressed at the caliber of this band for a parish picnic. They covered decades of music reproducing the hits from Joe Jackson to the Gin Blossoms and from Sam and Dave to Steppenwolf! A great mix of music for the great mix of generations undulating rhythmically on the asphalt dance floor. They are correct in noting on their web site that AFFTON ROCKS.