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Odenwald asks why owners won't restrict all development on land to be donated

Despite deed restrictions Twin Hollow Associates announced it is willing to place on its Mississippi riverfront property adjacent to land it wants to donate to St. Louis County, one county councilman recently questioned why the owners would not agree to a restriction prohibiting any type of development on the Oakville property.

Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, last week held legislation that has been up for final approval since mid-December so residents who live on the bluffs south of Cliff Cave Park near the 292 acres of land Twin Hollow Associates is trying to donate, would have more time to review deed restrictions and changes Campisi is making to the bill in response to residents' concerns.

Residents, citing access and environmental concerns, have taken issue with land that will remain private Twin Hollow Associates property. The private property sits between Cliff Cave Park and the proposed land donation further south, and that is being filled with shot rock and being raised 17 feet out of a 100-year flood plain.

Residents question whether the land is being prepared for commercial use.

As announced two weeks ago during a public meeting, councilmen were presented last week with the new deed restrictions owners Tom Rollins and George Foster voluntarily imposed on themselves. The restrictions would prohibit the development of trash-transfer stations, solid-waste landfills, casinos or casino parking facilities, barge fabrication facilities, airports, nuclear power plants or swine farms.

But Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury, questioned the need for specifically outlining what developments could not appear on the land when the owners specifically told councilmen they only wanted to use the remaining private property to develop as prairie land.

"One of the things I was left with from the meeting on Dec. 23 was that the only interests the owner had was prairie land," Odenwald said during the council's Jan. 27 session to Gary Feder, an attorney with Husch & Eppenberger representing Twin Hollow Associates. "My question is, is it not possible to have a restriction that says that instead of, it says we won't have a power plant, we won't have an airport ... I guess it just leads one to speculate if there are future uses that are restricted, then other uses are not ..."

If it is true that the owners of Twin Hollow Associates only want to use the land to develop as prairie as they told the council Dec. 23, Odenwald asked why they would not add a restriction that limited any type of development.

Feder answered Odenwald and said instead of permanently taking away the possibility of ever developing the land, he and his clients believed they had addressed the concerns of the residents with the specific deed restrictions.

"We honestly felt this was a very substantial concession on our part," Feder said. "I don't recall exactly what was said ... but we felt, as we went through these discussions, that this was a reasonable place to draw the line and we felt it was a fair place to draw the line."

Odenwald immediately responded, "What I recall being said was that: 'We have no intention of doing anything but prairie. We don't know why the people are upset,' ... I just want to make sure I understand that you want to retain the rights so that you can have a possibility of developing in the future ... The only use I heard that night was prairie and it was repeated many times."

Campisi told the Call he understood Odenwald's request, but felt uncomfortable asking the property owners to put a blanket restriction on any additional development on its property — especially when any development would have to go before the Planning Commission and the County Council before being approved.

He felt more comfortable, he said, with the results that came out of the meetings with the residents that helped to formulate the deed restrictions.

However, he said he did encourage Odenwald to clarify prior statements made by Twin Hollow Associates during Campisi's absence Dec. 23. Campisi had been out of town, vacationing with his family.

"Personally, I don't feel comfortable with taking anybody's property," he said. "The deed restrictions have been tweaked between them and the constituents in the area and I'm comfortable with that. Anything that's been agreed upon between those two is fine with me."

The legislation would reference to the deed restrictions, but would not list them, which Campisi noted may upset some residents. If he listed every deed restriction and the deed restrictions changed or there were additions after the legislation was approved and became an ordinance, he told the Call, the ordinance would become null and void.

He held the legislation, he said, so residents and the other councilmen would have more time to look at the changes he had made to the legislation before final consideration.

The updated legislation, which was scheduled to be introduced Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — has several changes, including removing the possibility of Twin Hollow Associates constructing a 10-acre lake on the land proposed to be donated to the parks department.

"We're taking out the lake," he said. "Those people are right. If there's going to be a lake up there it has to be filled somehow. Well, it can't be filled naturally because the land was filled (with shot rock), so it will have to be pumped. But there's no electric there, so it will have to be done by some kind of generator ... It would be too expensive for the county to maintain and they would have to run electric down there and then you've got the noise of the pump and they're right. Let's just take out the lake and forget about it."

He also is limiting the amount of time Twin Hollow Associates will have access through Cliff Cave Park to get to its land.

The company would have had two years, beginning March 31, to haul fill through the property. The current proposal limits hauling time to 18 months.

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