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/editorial/2005-02-16/AllowayElizabeth.jpg
Elizabeth Alloway enjoys the swing during recess Friday afternoon at Crest-wood Elementary School. Lindbergh School District officials oppose a proposal to construct a 30-foot-tall office/warehouse building that would back to the school's playground area.

Public hearing set on company's request for office/warehouse facility next to school


February 16, 2005 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A proposal to construct a 25,000-square-foot office/warehouse facility adjacent to Crest-wood Elementary School will be considered next week by the Crestwood Board of Alder-men.

A public hearing on the Matco Machine & Tool Co.'s request will be conducted by the Board of Aldermen at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22, at the Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive.

Lindbergh School District officials oppose the proposal as the 30-foot-tall office/warehouse facility would back to the playground area at Crestwood Elementary School. The city's Planning and Zoning Commission recently voted unanimously to recommend approval of Matco Machine's request for approval of a preliminary subdivision plat.

As proposed, the company plans to subdivide a 5.36-acre lot at 9530 Watson Industrial Drive into two parcels and construct the office/warehouse facility on the new parcel.

The company first sought approval of a preliminary subdivision plat last fall. At that time, a 30,000-square-foot office/warehouse building was proposed, which would have required a variance because the structure would not have had the required 50-foot setback, only a 30-foot setback.

No action was taken by the commission Sept. 1. On Sept. 10, Matco representatives met with Lindbergh officials and discussed a variety of alternatives such as additional landscaping or the use of a berm, Brandon Harp of Civil En-gineering Design Consultants told the commission Feb. 2.

"... And really where we came out of that meeting and in subsequent conversations with the school district was that there really wasn't an area there that we could provide them with what they were really looking for. And what they were really looking for when we got to those meetings was really for the development not to happen. It was pretty much cut and dry,'' Harp said. "So what we have done over the last four or five months, we've been talking with the school district. There have been some negotiations as very recently on some issues on the property, but, however ,we had to file this to try to keep this — the months kept slipping away from us. So we still want to move forward with this project ...''

As a result of those discussions with Lindbergh officials, Harp said, "We have made one major site-plan change, is that we've reduced the building size by 5,000 square feet. We took that off the width of the building so we're not now requiring the variance on the building setback. So currently the site plan that you have in front of you conforms to the city of Crestwood's M-1 Light Industrial Zoning Dis-trict for building setbacks, parking setbacks, imperviousness, size of lots, things of that nature ...''

While additional landscaping is proposed to serve as a buffer, unchanged from Matco's original plan is a 6-foot-high, white-vinyl fence that would be erected along the property line. However, the city requires a solid masonry fence when a property line abuts a residential district and Public Works Director Jim Eckrich said, "It's my feeling that you have to appear before the Board of the Adjustment to obtain a variance for the vinyl fence that you've proposed ...''

At one point, Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher, aldermanic liaison to the commission, asked, "Mr. Harp, I know it was a point of contention at the last gathering, but for the record do you recall what the distance is from your proposed fence to the soccer goal on Lindbergh school property?

Harp said, "I would say it's very close. I would say to the white soccer goal that's out there today that when the field's running in an east and west direction, I would say our proposed fence is probably very close to where that soccer goal is. I'd say maybe within 15-20 feet ...''

Commission Chairman Matt Green later asked, "Mr. Harp, in your opinion, would there be a hazard to school children after a rain, getting over in to the detention basin?

"I think you're going to say no because the (vinyl) fence is not going to allow that ...,'' Green added, noting that a youngster may be able to climb that fence "in just a minute. I'm just concerned. I need to ask that question.''

Harp replied, "Sure. I think it's a great question. I would answer that not so much that they would have to jump over the fence. I would answer that if we had a rain event where that detention basin was full, we're adjacent to Kirkwood Creek. That creek would be full and flowing very quickly if we had that type of rain event. I mean when you're talking about this basin being full, that's a hundred-year, 24-hour storm. That's a 1 percent chance that could happen any given year. That's a major storm and if you have that situation, this creek is going to be at its banks. So that's kind of an extreme condition when that basin would be filled. During normal rain events, just a typical 15-year storm, you probably won't see anything more than half a foot of water in this basin.''

But Pat Lanane, Lindbergh assistant superintendent for finance, later voiced a number of concerns about Matco's proposal, including the proximity of the detention basin.

While acknowledging that Matco officials had made an effort to address the school district's concerns, he conceded that Harp's characterization that Lindbergh officials hoped the development would not occur was accurate.

"... I am appearing here tonight in formal opposition to any step in the process that makes this one step closer to becoming a reality,'' Lanane said, later adding, "I will say to their credit they did everything but literally jump through hoops to try to meet our concerns, but I think his characterization is very correct that at the very end of all of this, we looked at what they were willing to do and it was considerable. You still — the elephant doesn't disappear because you put a dress on it is really the conclusion we've reached and it changes forever the nature of that playground.

"It has for 40-some years been a green park area and that boundary right or wrong has always been that boundary that encapsulates our green park playground. What we will now have is a rather large — that's a huge building when you look at the size of the property line there. We'll have a huge building that will now tower over the playgrounds area and every time kids are out there, any time that we're on that piece of property that will become a focal point. There's just no way around that. So we are very concerned about that.''

He later said, "... I am very worried about the detention pond. I know that normally maybe in a minor rain it's only six inches of water. But I was an assistant principal for a long time and I know what 6- to 11-year-old boys can do and there's almost nothing they can't do. And a six-foot fence is nothing, I will tell you that, and, in fact, in the worst-case event you're talking about, the creek fills up and someone wants to get to that detention pond, the only way to get to it will be over that fence ... A six-foot fence is not a major barrier for determined youngsters. The idea of getting in the pond, splashing around in the pond, you know I am very worried about that.

"Should they be there? Absolutely not. Would we condone that they would go on to someone else's property? No. But, again, I have too many years of dealing with the nature of youngsters to know that to think that will never happen is probably wishful thinking,'' he said.

Green asked Lanane, "... When the school district did its deliberations about this proposal, were there any other things that you considered that the district might do? You have a man owning a piece of property and wanting to put that property to use and you know that in the city of Crestwood we encourage businesses to use their property. And you stand before us this evening opposed to any step that would bring that forward and I just wondered if the district had considered any other avenues that might solve this problem?''

Lanane said, "Well, let me answer in this way. When we talked about things that could be done to mitigate the situation somewhat, there were some. Again, we're opposed to it happening, but if it were to happen, things such as there was a certain amount of berming talked about ... So now instead of this 30-foot (building), now you have a berm that's covering some portion of that and trees on top of that. That gets a little closer to I think a real barrier that might make more of a difference ... Again, to their credit I mean they came up with some other creative ideas that really we had not thought about and we actually took a step back and said: 'Well, could we live with that?' And unfortunately the answer was still it's going to be a huge change because if you've been out there, it's a beautiful area ...''

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