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Planning panel recommends approval of rezoning for QuikTrip

Despite public opposition, the St. Louis County Planning Commission recently recommended approval of a rezoning request to build a 24-hour QuikTrip convenience store with nine gas pumps in Oakville.

As proposed, the 4,555-square-foot convenience store would be built on Telegraph Road, 550 feet south of Forder Road.

The Planning Commission voted 6-0 last week to recommend approval of a zoning change to the C-8 Planned Commercial District and Amended C-8 Planned Commercial District from the 10,000-square-foot R-3 Residence District and C-8 Planned Commercial District for a 2.02-acre tract on the west side of Telegraph Road.

Two of south county's three representatives on the Planning Commission —Wayne Hilzinger and Maureen Ramshaw — voted to recommend approval of the rezoning request. Commissioner William Sneed, who also represents south county, was absent from the Jan. 5 meeting.

But Oakville residents have let the commission know they do not want another 24-hour convenience store on Telegraph.

During a Nov. 17 public hearing, several residents voiced their opposition to the rezoning request, while one person favored the request. When asked during the hearing if the crowd supported QuikTrip's proposal, 20 people raised their hands in opposition, while 10 people raised their hands saying they would favor the proposal.

In addition, the Department of Planning received 349 letters of opposition to the proposal, while 18 letters of support were sent. Also, 52 signatures appeared on petitions in favor of the QuikTrip location, while 1,170 signatures appeared on petitions that opposed the zoning change.

"The speakers in opposition expressed concerns regarding traffic safety, especially for patrons wishing to turn left out of this site to travel north," according to planning department documents dated Jan. 6. "Other concerns included the lights and noise generated by the twenty-four hour operation proposed by the petitioner, the high intensity of the proposed use, and elevation of the site in relation to adjoining property."

While the commissioners take note of those who are in opposition to rezoning requests, they take other factors into consideration when deciding whether to approve or deny a proposal, according to Debbie Salberg, the Department of Planning's head of zoning.

"They try to make decisions based on land use," Salberg told the Call. "All the letters and numbers of people at the hearing and who spoke at the hearing — that all goes to the County Council. The council makes the final decision. I'm not saying the Planning Commission doesn't pay attention to the citizens, but they make their decisions based on land usage. The County Council has a different responsibility."

The planning department submitted documents to the commission, recommending the proposal be approved even though department staff recommended a proposal be denied in 1997 for a QuikTrip that would have been constructed on a section of the parcels of land currently being proposed for rezoning.

"It is located along Telegraph Road, which appropriately fits the commercial use," Salberg said of the current proposal. "In this case, the petitioner had assembled a number of parcels, proposing site design that was superior to previous proposals and had a lot more uses than previous proposals.

"There's some traffic issues, but we basically felt it was land-use appropriate," she added. "A convenience store generates a lot of traffic, but it would be on Telegraph. The problem is we don't want high-traffic generators on residential streets."

The QuikTrip Corp. previously sought a rezoning request for parts of the land that were approved in its current proposal.

The corporation attempted in 1997 to construct a 4,000-square-foot convenience store with 10 gas pumps on a 1.5-acre tract also situated on the west side of Telegraph, north of Rolens Drive and opposite Burncoate Drive.

The planning department recommended that the request be denied, but the Planning Commission took no action on the matter, Salberg previously told the Call.

"Proximity to residential properties" was cited as one of the department's justifications for denial, according to documents for an Aug. 4 1997 executive meeting of the Planning Commission.

The commission never took any action, according to Salberg, and in October 1997, the commission granted QuikTrip a withdrawal without prejudice.

The current rezoning request, now that the Planning Commission has recommended approval of it, was scheduled to be received and filed during a County Council meeting Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, had the option this week either to request that the appropriate legislation be drafted, allowing councilmen to consider final approval of the rezoning request three weeks after the legislation is introduced, or take no further action, essentially killing the rezoning request — despite the commission's recommendation for approval.

The councilman has opposed at least one other QuikTrip rezoning request on Telegraph Road, despite a recommendation for approval by the Planning Commission in 2001. The corporation submitted a proposal in March 2001 to rezone a residential district to commercial for a 3.17-acre site on the east side of Telegraph about 250 feet south of Martigney Drive, which was the former location of the Katydids Garden Shop at 4416 Telegraph Road.

Claiming that a 24-hour convenience store would have been too intrusive for a residential area, at least four neighborhood groups circulated petitions in opposition to the proposal. Campisi opposed the proposal after the Planning Commission's 5-1 recommendation reached the County Council. Campisi cited strong public opposition as his reason for opposing the request, according to previous Call reports.

If councilmen approve the rezoning request, construction of the proposed QuikTrip on the west side of Telegraph would be scheduled for this summer.

Homes on the site are under contract and would be bought and razed if the council approves QuikTrip's request, according to John P. King, an attorney with Blumenfeld, Kaplan and Sandweiss, who represents the QuikTrip Corp.

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