SLAR SUCCESSFULLY MODIFIES ST. LOUIS COUNTY COMPLETE STREETS LEGISLATION AND SAVES MONEY FOR DEVELOPERS
You may have heard several news stories in the last few weeks regarding Complete Streets legislation in St. Louis County. “Complete Streets” means designing a transportation corridor which enables safe, accessible travel for all users: pedestrians (including those using a wheelchair or other personal assistive mobility device), bicyclists, transit users, and motorists. Complete Streets elements include improvements such as ADA compliant pedestrian access and transit stops, bike paths, lighting, and landscaping. While a few other local jurisdictions have passed Complete Streets legislation, most have limited its application to public works projects. The original bill introduced in St. Louis County was also limited to public projects and gave the County Highway Department a lot of flexibility when it came to administering the policy.
However, a second version of the bill, introduced later, mandated that St. Louis County develop a Complete Streets transportation system, meaning significant cost to the County, which in turn would likely have been passed along to developers through transportation generation assessments (TGAs) and to taxpayers in general. The new version also required that private streets and parking lots adhere to the Complete Streets Policy, and that all projects which required approval by the County be subject to the policy during plan review and approval. It was not clear as to how many Complete Streets elements should be incorporated into a project for it to satisfy the policy. Any exceptions to the policy would need to be applied for by developers, approved by the County Planning Commission, and would then be sent to a Peer Advisory Committee for review.
SLAR’s Governmental Affairs team, with input from our commercial members, worked with the bill’s sponsors, Councilman Pat Dolan and Councilman Steve Stenger, to modify the bill so as to allow for improved accessibility and consideration of Complete Streets elements, while limiting the financial impact on the County’s budget and therefore on taxpayers and developers. The County Highway Department and several other real estate industry-related associations were also involved in discussions with councilmembers.
With input from all interested stakeholders, a third, compromise version of the bill was passed on January 21, 2014, which included the following key changes:
- The ordinance now serves as a set of guiding principles rather than a mandate, thereby giving the Highway Department the latitude it needs to keep Complete Streets improvements within the current budget. This will prevent increases in TGAs as a result of the new policy.
- The ordinance makes clear that one Complete Streets element, such as ADA compliance (which is already required), could satisfy the policy goals and reduce costs.
- All references to private streets, parking lots, and projects were removed, thereby limiting the policy to public projects.
- The entire paragraph relating to exceptions was deleted, removing the burden from developers to document why a particular project is not a good fit for Complete Streets.
- SLAR, by ordinance, will have a seat on the Peer Advisory Committee. The committee will no longer receive information on specific projects. Rather, a semi-annual report will be sent to the committee for review and for input on whether the County is moving in the right direction with respect to Complete Streets and accessibility.
SLAR thanks the County Council for their diligent work on this matter, resulting in legislation that will serve as a model for other jurisdictions in the St. Louis area!