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Downtown Waynesville dramatically growing, councilwoman tells Chamber
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Feb. 11, 2010) — Councilwoman Luge Hardman reported at Wednesday’s meeting of the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce that her city saw major growth in sales tax revenues and is likely to have even more growth in the near future.

Hardman said a Roubidoux Creek Bridge improvement project and a sidewalk project near Waynesville Middle School are coming closer to moving off the drawing boards and into actual construction, but she said she was especially proud of downtown Waynesville business owners who made major improvements in their property.

“Another thing that is very near and dear to my heart, if you know me at all, is downtown Waynesville. When I first got elected one of the first things I wanted to do is clean my little town up,” Hardman said. “We had a project with the sidewalk and the lights; that project has spurred about $2 million of investment in downtown Waynesville. I said the other night that I am so proud to be driving home from my college class at 10 pm and actually see cars in downtown Waynesville.”

That improvement in downtown could be spurred by adding a category of mixed zoning to allow more flexibility in development in downtown Waynesville such as allowing residential apartments above commercial businesses.

“It is something that is done all over the country; it is very popular in Missouri and very popular in old towns, especially with the Square,” Hardman said, citing the cities of Republic, Ozark and Peculiar as examples.

Recent property investors in downtown Waynesville include the owners of the Paradise Deli and the Drynk, as well as local developer Tom Campbell who has bought the abandoned three-story building on the southeast side of the intersection of Benton Street and Historic Route 66. The old Brown’s Shoe Store on the center of the south side of the Square will be replaced by a boutique and an Irish pub named “Hoppers” in honor of the Waynesville frog, she said.

“I think it’s going to be a very good addition to downtown Waynesville. We’re beginning to see an interest there in retail,” Hardman said.

Waynesville’s sales tax revenue went up 7 percent last year, she said — less than St. Robert but still much better than many area communities that have seen double-digit declines. The community could dramatically increase its commercial base with the arrival of a planned hotel and national military museum on Ichord Avenue near Lowe’s Chevrolet and Exit 156 of Interstate 44.

Hardman cautioned that people need to know that the multimillion dollar project happened with private investment, not city money.

“We are very excited about that, working with the developer there,” Hardman said. “Many people on the Pulaski County Web think that the city of Waynesville put that money up … I’m here to tell you that it is not. We don’t have $10 million; if we had $10 million, we would have built that pool we wanted to get. This is a private development, we’ve been working with these developers for about two years. They’re very good, they’re very interested in Waynesville and we appreciate their investment there.”

Dramatic growth in the economy was also accompanied by dramatically higher heating bills in January. Hardman said she understands that many residents aren't happy with what they owe due to high heating bills, but said anyone who needs more time to pay their bill should contact city hall.

An additional problem is that some of the city bills included more days than the usual one-month billing period.

“You’ve got to remember that we had 10 nights of sub-zero temperature and when those furnaces run, they run,” Hardman said. “If you have one of those that you think had longer billing periods, come and talk to us about it and we’ll try to help you.”

Similar programs to help customers are also in place in St. Robert, Hardman noted.

In other news, Hardman said the new campus of Ozarks Technical Community College in Waynesville has had an increase of over 70 percent in its enrollment and noted that Waynesville and St. Robert may soon be working together on a joint animal shelter.

“Let’s hear it for the dogs,” Hardman said to loud applause and “woofs” from her audience.

Hardman also noted that the city council will have no changes in the April election because all incumbents signed up to run for re-election and face no challengers, but said there’s a need for volunteers on a number of the city’s boards and commissions.

“If you’re interested in serving, let us know, we have a place for you,” Clark said.

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