Crestwood concerns flood pool
By MIKE ANTHONY
Residents whose homes border the Crest-wood Swim Club recently flooded the Crest-wood Board of Aldermen with a litany of complaints about the club and asked the board to consider reducing the number of hours the pool can operate.
But Crestwood Swim Club members, including Ward 2 Alderman Gary Vincent, responded that most complaints about the club and its new location were temporary in nature and would be resolved to the satisfaction of nearby residents.
In October 2001, the Board of Aldermen approved a conditional-use permit allowing the Swim Club to construct a new pool in a residential area adjacent to City Hall. The club's previous location at 1475 S. Sappington Road, owned by the Rosebrook Real Estate Co., was needed to provide additional parking for the Kohl's Department Store that is under construction at the northwest corner of Watson and Sap-pington roads.
THF Realty, which is developing the corner with tax-increment financing assistance, will be reimbursed for the $750,000 purchase of the Swim Club property through a three-eighths-cent sales tax levied on purchases at Kohl's. No tax-increment financing funds will be used for the pool project.
Swim Club members built a new pool on a second parcel owned by Rosebrook Real Estate on Rayburn Avenue that previously was the site of two tennis courts. A CUP was needed so the club could proceed with its plans to construct the new pool.
The Crestwood Swim Club opened its new pool in early July. "Unfortunately, they did so without the benefit of either an occupancy permit — for the building and pool construction — from St. Louis County or the city of Crestwood,'' Mark Payken, the city's director of public works, wrote in an Aug. 25 memorandum to City Admin-istrator Don Greer. "A temporary occupancy permit has since been issued by both St. Louis County and the city of Crestwood. Many items remain to be completed, resulting in a letter to the Crestwood Swim Club regarding the unlikely possibility of retaining their temporary occupancy permit ... I am working diligently to see that this project is completed as soon as possible.''
The Call learned that Payken resigned his position Friday, but no further details were available before press time.
During the Aug. 26 Board of Aldermen meeting, residents on Bali Court and Rosaire Drive voiced concerns about the new pool, citing persistent noise from the pool, the lack of a required fence that would serve as a buffer between their homes and the pool, damage to their properties from the pool construction and whether the new pool was in compliance with city and county ordinances.
Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood also raised the issue of whether the Crestwood Swim Club was in compliance with city and county ordinances.
But Swim Club representatives, including Vincent, noted the pool would close after Labor Day and said the club is working diligently to resolve any problems with nearby residents. As for the fence required by the Swim Club's CUP, Vincent said city officials and club representatives differ over the location of the fence, contending city officials want it in a different place than the CUP stipulates.
Carleen Reinhardt of Bali Court addressed the board about the Swim Club, asking several questions on behalf of her neighbors, Hugh and Marie Mackay of Bali Court, and voicing several concerns of her own and presenting a verbal scenario of the "persistent noise'' the Swim Club makes. She also requested a reduction in the hours the pool can operate.
"... I can't imagine anyone on the board who would want to put up with that persistent noise, which I have de-scribed ...,'' she said.
Reinhardt also raised the issue of the club's compliance with city and county ordinances.
"When I asked if the pool was going to be shut down because they had not complied with the time lines, I was told: 'Oh, I really can't shut them down. I told them 30 days, but if I try to shut them down, you-know-what will hit the fan,''' she said.
"So what I'd like to ask is that you consider the following reasonable requests, the requests of a residentially zoned pool in our back yards, for sure. One, closing time 8 p.m. seven days a week. Ending time for private parties, 9 p.m. and a reduction in the number of private parties. Also, I'd like to ask each one of you if you haven't done so yet or if you have already, drive or walk alongside the parking lot by the pool. Make sure you drive all the way to the back corner so you can see the way the neighbors' yards and fences look. Check out the yards and fences all along the route and ask yourself: 'How would you like it if someone damaged your fence three, four months ago and hadn't replaced or fixed it?''' she asked.
At one point, Trueblood asked, "Mr. Greer, is the Crestwood Swim Club currently in compliance with the codes before the city of Crestwood or the ones that they're obligated to obey?''
Greer said, "Well, the short answer is 'no.'''
He noted that Payken had sent a letter to Crestwood Swim Club President Regina Massie "with regard to a punch list of things that had to be done and a time frame that those had to be done in. That was done at my direction. I'm going to say that was a week or 10 days ago. The city attorney has suggested that we have a sit down and iron out other things that are pending rather than close them down.''
Trueblood said, "... It just strikes me that the earlier comment about something hitting the fan, don't want to get involved or rock the boat. As an alderman whose ward borders up to the commercial district of Crestwood, at least on the north side of Watson Road, I get one issue a year from the homes that border that property, but in the two months, three months that the pool's been open I've had 10-12 of them and I don't understand if they're not in compliance why we continue to let them operate that way. And the fact that some of our staff feels that they have to protect them because something will hit the fan, I'm aghast at that. I don't understand why that privilege is allowed.''
Trueblood said he had requested information about recent correspondence between the Swim Club and the city.
Noting that he had received that information from Greer, but had not had a chance to review it yet, Trueblood said, "... I'm going to review it and find out exactly what's the relationship between the city of Crestwood and the Swim Club because it seems to me that we're forgetting somebody here and that's the folks who live around it.''
Greer said, "Well, I'm not sure exactly which parts to respond to, if there's a need to respond to any of those right now. I can tell you that the special events that have been held at the Crestwood Swim Club have been permitted and they've operated within the permits.''
Trueblood said, "But they're not to compliance now and in the sense that the punch card that you've developed and asked them to ...''
Greer interjected, "There's a punch list of things that need to be completed and yes they are beyond the dates ...''
Trueblood said, "Wouldn't it make sense that if they're not in compliance with the laws of our city that they not be allowed to operate until those laws are met? I'm at a loss here because if it's issues of safety or issues or compliance with neighborhood standards, noise restriction, replacement of damaged items, why would we let them to continue? We don't do that with other businesses or other operations. I'm sorry, I'm mystified by this and that's why I'm asking the question the way I am.''
Greer later emphasized that the Swim Club is not receiving any special treatment from the city.
"... What we're trying to do is make sure that it is a safe environment, that it is properly constructed,'' he said. "The issue of the fencing has become quite an issue and part of the reason for that, and, again, I've had to kind of refresh my memory because this is several years ago that this conversation occurred or some of the issues that the board decided had to do with placement of the fence. And part of the placement of the fence was left to the discretion of the director of public works director based upon contact with the residents. And since that time, there's been a number of discussions, and, in fact, the director of public works and I ... we went out and walked the property and got to see how the original configuration of fence really was problematic.
"And I know that he was working with the Crestwood Swim Club to try to resolve that with what the city believes would be a better alternative. Now there was an additional request that, personally, I mean professionally maybe I should say, did alter the scope of what the board had approved and what I indicated to Mr. Payken at the time that if, in fact, that was where Crestwood Swim Club was headed that it was my opinion they would need to come back to the Board of Aldermen and get approval to modify that plan. Now that's exactly where the status of that is because I have not heard anything else on that. I have been focused on trying to get the project completed and again the intention is to try to sit down with the Crestwood Swim Club and get these matters resolved because there are a number of issues that simply aren't done,'' Greer said.
Vincent later said, "I just wanted to point out that we do have a temporary occupancy permit issued by St. Louis County, so we are operating legally. There are no safety issues that I'm aware of. The pool was inspected by the chief inspector of St. Louis County before it opened and as far as I'm concerned, as far as I know, we have not violated any of our rules with the city under our conditional-use permit. There are two main issues that remain to be addressed. One is the fence, and that's still an open issue because in my opinion the city wants it at a different place than was required by the conditional-use permit.
"There's another issue, the grass needs to be graded and the landscaping needs to be done and Mr. Payken told us"There's another issue, the grass needs to be graded and the landscaping needs to be done and Mr. Payken told us all along that wasn't necessary to do that until September. It's pointless to put in grass and landscaping when it's 105 degrees outside. So we were going to wait until September and as far as I know that's what the city has agreed to do. Those are really the three main things that remain to be done. There's a couple of gates that need to be put in, but the pool is completely fenced. It is completely safe. There are no hazards to any kids up there — as far as I'm aware. That's all I have,'' Vincent added.
Besides being a Crestwood Swim Club member, Vincent, an attorney, is a shareholder and volunteer officer with the Rosebrook Real Estate Co., which owns the property on which the Swim Club is situated.
At another point, Trueblood said, "I have to ask Alderman Vincent — was he speaking as an alderman just now, explaining the condition of the pool or (as) a representative of the pool?''
Vincent said, "I'm speaking as Gary Vincent because and I have knowledge of this stuff. That's how I'm speaking.''
Trueblood said, "Thank you.''
Two Swim Club members who ad-dressed the board — Anne Milford and Charlie Scherrer — said the pool is an asset to the community and the club is in compliance with the provisions of its CUP
Milford said, "... As far as the closing time goes, the pool is not changing the character, and, again, that's something we would gladly explain to you. We have set hours. We honor those hours. We have extended hours on Friday evenings. I think we had one party that was planned by a member and we got a permit and paid $50 to the city. We are in compliance with our closing and opening times.
"Now the other thing is as far as the pool, I feel like it's is being villainized and I just can barely sit there and listen to it. The whole reason that pool moved was because it was in a place that was needed for redevelopment of this corner that has been a problem for years and years. If there were private homes where we used to be, if there had been a VFW lodge, if there had been a plant nursery, whoever had that property should be compensated for it so they can rebuild what they have. I'm sure if the residents of Bali Court, if there homes were needed for a parking lot, I guarantee you that they would want money to be able to build a new house, OK?'' she added.
Scherrer said, "... I for one until I found what was happening, wanted to stay right where we were, up in the old pool. Who wanted that property? The city fathers, right here. So we could have a development. Then we had to wait four months past the date we said we needed funds and go ahead because a lot of problems with the city fathers to rectify problems. So instead of having seven months the contractors wanted to develop that property right and have it all ready for the opening in May, we had three months. They busted, pardon me the expression, busted their butts and have been trying with the ad-verse conditions of weather and everything else to get that shape.
"This Swim Club and Rosebrook have been busting their butts, gentlemen and ladies. This guy here that you guys ridicule has been busting his butt for this city and for the community and for the neighbors. Everybody has thought about those neighbors ... And if because kids are making noise that they're complaining about, then they've got their agenda wrong. Real wrong ... Let's get our agenda right for our young people, this Crestwood. If that's what we're going to put down, things like that, we're going to have a disappointing community and it's going to go to hell on a sleigh ride,'' he said.