A group of business and property owners concerned about the economic viability of Osage Beach Parkway west of the Grand Glaize Bridge is renewing its call to the city for an economic impact study.
Seven owners with economic interests in the area known as the West End recently signed a letter to Mayor Penny Lyons and the aldermen asking that a study be conducted by an independent consulting firm “before taking any further action on the Key Largo interchange and the construction of an outer road to Y Road.”
That original message was misconstrued, they now say. The coalition of business and property owners was not asking the city and MoDOT to halt all discussions and progress on solving the economic and safety issues associated with Key Largo and the west end of Osage Beach Parkway.
“To clear up the confusion,” West End property owner Neil Stewart said, “we don’t believe our position from the beginning has changed. It just got muddled.”
Stewart said the group was referring to taking action on the long-term outer road, not the ingress-egress issue involving Key Largo.
He is one of the property and business owners to sign the letter to Mayor Lyons and the aldermen. Others are Mark Beeler of The Beeler Group, Patrick Boylan of J. Bruner’s, John Farrell of John Farrell Real Estate, Bill Bennett, Matt Duenke of Duenke Enterprises and Kim Loehr of Interior Motifs.
This group has the backing of more than 30 other business and property owners in the area west of Grand Glaize Bridge, according to Stewart.
“We want to work with the city to bring economic development and redevelopment to the West End,” he explained. “We always wanted a short-term solution, and then work together on a long-term solution.”
Alderman Kevin Rucker was the first to share his thoughts on the letter when he said at the end of the Nov. 1 meeting that he was conflicted by the messages he was getting from West End property owners. Rucker, who at a previous meeting made the motion to move forward with the latest MoDOT proposal, took exception with the new approach. He said it was difficult for him when first the West End group’s message was “hurry up, hurry up” and now it’s “stop, stop, stop.”
The rest of the board and city staff apparently misunderstood the intent of the group as well since initial 2013 budget discussion has involved re-allocating money from the Key Largo area to other city projects.
Stewart said from the beginning the West End Business and Property Owners Coalition had four objectives:
Page 2 of 3 - 1. To get the city and MoDOT to recognize the signage issues
2. To emphasize the immediate need for some type of resolution to closing Key Largo and getting relief to West End business owners by reopening the intersection in some manner.
3. To emphasize the need for a long-term solution to the ingress/egress issue such as an interchange or some type of design to provide a west entrance to The Parkway.
4. To emphasize the need to address the economic degradation of businesses from the Grand Glaize Bridge to near Lazy Days Road.
The first objective has been met as MoDOT agreed to fund a new set of signage along the Expressway that includes the words “Business 54.”
The recommendation of a three-way slip ramp with a roundabout is “a reasonable short-term solution” for business owners, Stewart said, adding he and the coalition are confused about the origin of the roundabout concept.
Regarding the third objective, Stewart said the concept of an outer road from Key Largo to Y Road “is purely subjective” without any type of relative data or analysis to show that option would solve the issues.
“That’s where we came up with the idea of a study to review and validate what a long-term solution should be for the area, or as an entrance into Osage Beach from the West End,” he said. “Rather than going out and spending Osage Beach tax dollars and a couple million dollars of MoDOT’s budget, we need some clear, professional help.”
While many city officials, residents and business owners believe the Expressway is to blame for the economic problems of the west end of Osage Beach, the coalition members aren’t so sure.
“We have a degradation of businesses from the Grand Glaize Bridge to the west end of the city and we believe that hasn’t been caused by the Expressway,” Stewart said. “While the Expressway has exacerbated the problems, the economic problems run deeper. Businesses are in the tank as the result of economic times, and we believe there needs to be a study for the entire West End.”
The economy has impacted everyone, Stewart said. Business owners have had to adjust the way they do business, have had to look at incentives to keep their businesses open.
“And we think it’s time for the city to take action now rather than be reactive later,” he said.
An independent consultant with expertise in this type of situation could provide a qualified review of the ingress/egress option as a short-term solution with some other type of solution for the long term, the coalition believes.
Page 3 of 3 - “In our group, there are developers willing to commit some dollars to a study, but we think it’s only fair that the city commit some funds as well. We think we should work together in this,” Stewart said. “We’re not trying to be adversarial at all. We’re just trying to figure out the best way to work with the city. The city has been doing business the same way over the years, and we think the city needs to jump in front of these issues.”