Imagine you're a builder who wants to put up 4,300 homes on 638 acres in St. Charles, Mo. It's a billion-dollar, mixed-use project. Half the site will have to be raised out of a 500-year flood plain, and stormwater runoff will require that 75 acres of lakes be created. Over the course of two public meetings held as part of the zoning process just one person brings up a fairly innocuous concern, and the project is quickly approved.
Sound too good to be true? Well, this fantasy-like scenario actually happened to Greg Whittaker, president of Whittaker Homes in St. Peters, Mo. “Everyone was shocked,” says Whittaker. “Any time you send something through zoning, you'll have people who are against the project. Usually you draw up a plan and then it's a huge fight to get anything approved.”
New Town at St. Charles, a TND planned by Miami-based firm Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co., got off to a good start thanks to a week-long charrette held in early 2003. “Normally developers don't do that, they say they want things a certain way and then cram that down people's throats,” says Whittaker.
“By going through this open process where people could voice concerns and changes could be made, it made it hard for folks to say later on that they were against the project.”