Still, says Joseph Heathcott of SLU, the plan is vulnerable. Because of weak planning laws, Stanley ultimately can't prevent variances. "An alderman would say, 'Well, my brother-in-law runs a junkyard in Soulard, and I know that it's against the comprehensive plan, but I'm just going to grant them a variance,'" says Heathcott. "One of those is fine, but a thousand of those mean that you don't have a comprehensive plan anymore."
Shrewsbury denies that variances are much of a problem but says that they're inevitable and necessary. "You're always going to have variances," he says. "Land-use plans and zoning codes have to be a bit flexible."
"Congestion," says Rollin Stanley, "is a good thing."
And that's why the team consulted with aldermen and have gone through four drafts. Now, it's up to Stanley to sell this plan to the aldermen.
"He's got a tough row to hoe," says Todd Swanstrom. In successful cities without much vacant space, he says, land-use plans reflect existing uses. A tavern or industrial complex that's been in the same location for 30 years won't be forcibly moved. "But here in St. Louis," he continues, "there's tremendous potential, tremendous elasticity. It's a key moment in our history, I think. There's potential for development. But how do you get it out of that very parochial, ward-based politics and get the ward leaders to buy into the process? You have to get the stakeholders to buy into it."