A proposed heavy equipment rental company for Osage Beach Parkway West could be the first serious investment in the beleaguered section of the area of the Parkway.

A proposed heavy equipment rental company for Osage Beach Parkway West could be the first serious investment in the beleaguered section of the area of the Parkway.

A public hearing will be held at Thursday night's regular board of aldermen meeting to gauge public opinion on rezoning 34 acres of land on the east side of the Parkway from C-1 General Commercial to I-1 Light Industrial to accommodate the rental company's large equipment. The vacant land is between Harmy's Cheese Store and the old Downhill Rukus building.

Thursday's Osage Beach meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

The news came to light during last week's Parkway West Study presentation to the board and the public by consultants HDR, Inc., hired last year to create options for redeveloping the west end.

City officials, with input from the public, have tried for several years to get a handle on what direction should be taken to help offset a downturn in economic conditions and subsequent property values west of the Grand Glaize Bridge. The original proposal to change the aesthetics of Parkway West into more of a boulevard appearance led to hiring a consultant to undertake a detailed study of the area.

Christopher Kinzel of HDR last week presented a list of potential tasks that were derived from two public meetings and after months of research and surveying of businesses west of the Grand Glaize Bridge. The city is expected to hold a special meeting or workshop in the near future to decide which, if any, of the tasks it wants HDR to pursue at a cost beyond the $70,000 of the initial study contract. Additional cost to the city to pursue all of the tasks is estimated at $320,000.

"Whatever we develop from this point is nothing more than a blueprint to get started," Mayor John Olivarri explained after Kinzel's presentation.

Kinzel concurred, adding "all the work we've done so far will be folded in to that plan, but there's much more work to get there. This is not the study, but what we're going to study."

Typically, the consultant said, this phase of the process is shared only with the board of aldermen, which would then decide which tasks to earmark for further study. But because city officials want the public to be involved in the entire process, the preliminary information was shared at the April 27 special meeting.

"From the beginning we wanted the public to tell us what you wanted, not for us to tell you what we wanted," the mayor noted. "This was never intended to come back and 'fix' things; it was designed to come back and tell us what is important."

Public concern

There were some in the audience last week who expected more specific information as to a plan, and who remain hopeful that something will happen sooner than later.

One property owner noted that although his property values have declined in recent years, his property taxes have gone up.

Another wondered if rezoning a part of the Parkway West to Light Industrial for a heavy equipment company would set a precedent for the economic culture of the area.

City Planner Cary Patterson said while rezoning to I-1 would not necessarily set a precedent, doing so is something the city is considering.

"We're looking at it positively that it might help the community develop in positive ways," he explained. "The idea of getting more development out there is an attempt to get more traffic out there, more employees and customers going past the existing businesses."

Yet another member of the audience suggested that the Key Largo interchange should be improved as a better gateway into Osage Beach.

Tasks

The purpose of the study is to use the data gathered by HDR to develop a Parkway West plan, according to the consultant. The plan would lay out the city's goals for the corridor, identify a set of short- and long-term strategies to achieve those goals and include an implementation plan to prioritize the strategies.

Among the tasks the board of aldermen will consider are:

•Public and stakeholder involvement through additional public meetings.

•Case studies to evaluate three other similar communities that have faced and overcome challenges similar to Osage Beach.

•Develop strategies to capitalize on Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

•Develop strategies to capitalize on Arrowhead Center, and other possible retail/residential developments in the area.

•Develop a set of transportation and aesthetic improvements to enhance the Parkway West corridor's attractiveness as a destination while reducing real and perceived barriers to accessing the area.

•Develop strategies to market Osage Beach Parkway West either through recommended enhancements to existing or new strategies.

•Determine what kind of development the Parkway could support and to develop strategies for targeting new development.

•Review the city's codes, policies, regulations and procedures to look for potential ways to improve processes and make adjustments that could benefit western Osage Beach residents and business owners.

What's next?

Alderman Kevin Rucker issued a challenge to not only the board of aldermen but the public. He urged his fellow city officials to begin putting ideas together, to help fine tune the plan.

"I don't want to wait six months or a year from now and then say we should have done this or that and all of a sudden it gets left out," he said. "I want to challenge the public to contact us with more ideas as well. We need to come up with a plan when we're going to take the next steps."