Wildwood's First "Meet the Planners" Meeting Focuses on Bliss Sites and Proposed Overlay District
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
On October 13th, the City of Wildwood help its first "Meet the Planners" public meeting where residents were allowed to asked detailed questions of city staff. The meeting was held from 3:30 to a bit over 5:20 pm. It was a hybrid meeting where people could participate in the city council chambers or remotely on zoom.
Joe Vujnich, Director of Planning and Parks, moderated the meeting. In attendance were various staff members, the City Attorney, John Young, several council members and a handful of residents.
"This is the first time that we have done this- so again we are not 100 percent sure how it is going to work," stated Vujnich. "It is a concept that was suggested by our Mayor."
"It is something that hopefully will go well and we can do again," added Vujnich.
The meeting which was in theory open ended was dominated by questions and comments regarding a proposed zoning overlay district. The "Special Circumstances Overlay District" (SCOD) is intended to increase oversight and regulation of properties identified as having unique environmental challenges.
The SCOD has been controversial given former Superfund sites within Wildwood that have been delisted by the EPA. They were contaminated by waste hauler Russel Bliss in the 1970s. Bliss is most infamous for his dumping of waste in the former town of Times Beach, Missouri. The City considers them unfit for development, but is currently fighting legal challenges regarding future development.
During the meeting several several home owners spoke about living near the site over the years and expressed concerns over what some had seen as a move toward potential development. They also expressed a need for greater transparency and protection for residents regarding the infamous sites.
Former Council Member Jean Vedvig, who said "she had not heard of Russel Bliss until 1999 encouraged current council members to continue to ask questions. She also showed conditional support for the SCOD. "I think that the PRD and then having this overlay may be very helpful," stated Vedvig. Her opinion of Wildwood's format was anything but tentative, "What a courtesy the City has afforded us to discuss the ordinance they you will be taking into consideration in the future," stated Vedvig.